On Tuesday, Dutch F-35 fighter jets were scrambled and intercepted a formation of Russian military planes flying near Polish airspace, according to Dutch defense officials. The Netherlands’ Ministry of Defense stated that the three Russian jets were escorted out by two F-35s. The unidentified aircraft had approached the Polish NATO area of responsibility from Kaliningrad, an enclave located between NATO members Poland and Lithuania. After identification, it was found to be an IL-20M Coot-A, a Russian Ilyushin Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft, accompanied by two Su-27 Flankers, which are Russian Sukhoi Su-28 fighter aircraft.
A spokesperson for the Polish Defense Ministry informed Politico Europe that the planes were traveling over international waters and that none of Poland’s airspace had been interrupted. Dutch F-35s stationed at the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork were scrambled to identify and intercept the Russian aircraft. Eight Dutch F-35s will be stationed in Poland between February and March, according to the Polish Defense Ministry.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has not issued any public statements in response to the interception. The fly-by comes as tensions remain relatively escalated between the Kremlin and NATO amid the Russia–Ukraine war. It is not uncommon for Russian warplanes to fly near NATO or U.S. territory.
In October, the U.S. military confirmed two Air Force F-16 fighter planes intercepted Russian nuclear-capable bombers off the Alaskan coast after they were spotted within the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. NATO also said last August it had scrambled fighter jets over the Baltic and Black seas after Russian aircraft were detected flying near the bloc’s airspace.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley were in Belgium to discuss providing more military assistance and funding to Ukraine amid the nearly year-long war with Russia. Milley further elaborated on the object that was shot down near Lake Huron, Michigan, over the past weekend. He disclosed that a missile fired by a U.S. F-16 missed the object but that the second missile hit and that the first missile did no damage to life or property.