NATO reported that two Russian fighters overflew a French and a Dutch warship in the Baltic Sea in an “unsafe and unprofessional” manner.
Two air defense frigates, the Dutch HNLMS “Tromp”, flagship of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), and the French “Chevalier Paul”, were both carrying out a maritime and air surveillance mission within in the Baltic Sea on the morning of November 17, 2022, when they were approached by two Russian fighters.
“The Russian pilots failed to respond to Allied forces’ standing query communications and overflew the force at an altitude of 300 feet and a distance of 80 yards,” NATO reported. “NATO deemed the interaction unsafe and unprofessional since it was conducted in a known danger area, which was activated for air defence training, and due to the aircraft altitude and proximity.”
The exact model of the two Russian fighters was not specified.
The sea, “a place to show force”
Such interactions are commonplace between Russian aircraft and NATO ships. In February 2022, the French Chief of the Defense Staff reported the interception of several Russian aircraft that were shadowing aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Eastern Mediterranean.
However, since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, western forces fear the risk of an incident, and a potential escalation.
“At sea, the Russians are regularly within 2,000 meters of our ships; their weapons systems are active, as they regularly let us know by illuminating our buildings with their fire control radars,” the French Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Pierre Vandier, reported in August 2022 in a parliamentary hearing with the French Defense Committee. “You have to bear in mind that, for a combat ship, the difference between low and high intensity is only due to the orders received. […] These uninhibited behaviors make the sea a place to show force today, and will make it a place of confrontation tomorrow.”