A Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35A fighter duo intercepted a group of Russian aircraft in their first quick reaction alert (QRA) scramble from Poland.
The two fighters were deployed to identify and escort a formation of aircraft. The formation approached the Polish NATO area of responsibility from Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave.
After identification, it turned out to be three aircraft, a Russian IL-20M Coot-A reconnaissance aircraft that was accompanied by two SU-27 Flanker fighters. The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from a distance and handed over the escort to NATO partners, the Dutch defense ministry said.
NATO’s Air Command said the Dutch F-35As were supported by German Air Force Eurofighters in shadowing the Russian aircraft, “which were posing a danger to other air users by ignoring international air safety rules.”
The Netherlands currently has eight F-35s in Poland, which will be stationed there until March. A half of these combat aircraft are available from Malbork Air Base for surveillance of NATO airspace above Eastern Europe. When necessary, two aircraft take off within minutes to intercept another aircraft.
This happens when an aircraft approaches NATO airspace without identifying itself. Another two F-35s are in reserve for this task.
The other four F-35s are being used for training programs with allies.