NATO’s on-going Baltic policing mission saw armed combat fighters launch 160 “live” intercepts of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea in 2015. According to figures produced by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense this number represents a 14% rise over 2014.
Since March 2004, when the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, fighter aircraft contributed by the alliance’s members have assumed responsibility for securing their airspace since none of the three countries own militaries have an indigenous fighter force. Member states that contribute aircraft operate on a four-month rotation from Lithuania’s First Air Force Base at Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai and the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel.
Between May and August 2015 the Royal Air Force provided four Typhoon FGR.4s for the deployment. On Friday July 24th alone the RAF fighters intercepted ten Russian aircraft over the Baltic.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence attributed the increase in intercepts over the Baltic to;
…a heightening of tensions between Moscow and Western countries over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.