Hungarian Gripen fighter jets monitoring Baltic airspace as part of a NATO mission have been dispatched six times to intercept Russian military aircraft in the past two months, the commander of the air force said on Wednesday. Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
The Hungarian Gripens also performed 36 fast take-offs during training exercises and other training tasks during their mission period, Attila Ványik, the mission’s first Hungarian chief, said during a press conference.
He noted that the current mission involving 4 Gripens and 77 troops serving under the Rapid Reaction Alert Protocol with Czech support is Hungary’s third police mission to the Baltic region, following missions in 2015. and 2019. The jets must intercept an unidentified aircraft within 15 minutes of receiving an alert, he added.
He noted that an alert for the Gripens had to be issued in all six cases due to the appearance of unidentified Russian aircraft, fighter jets, military transport aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft which entered international airspace around the Baltic airspace without submitting a flight plan. Those planes also failed to establish radio contact with air traffic control and turned off their transponders, Ványik said.
Nándor Kilián, commander of the Hungarian air force, told MTI that unidentified Russian planes often use the narrow Baltic Sea corridor of the Saint Petersburg-Kaliningrad route, which qualifies as international airspace. .
He noted that since the Russian occupation of Crimea in 2014, the BAP had increased to three the number of military bases for NATO fighter jets monitoring Baltic airspace. Besides Siauliai, there are bases in Lithuania and Estonia, he said.