Air force scrambles to intercept Russian fighters over Baltic Sea

The Finnish pilot got close enough to get crystal clear pictures of the aircraft, and tail numbers.

Picture of one of the Russian Air Force Suhoi SU-27 fighters intercepted on 24th January 2019 / Credit: Finnish Air Force

If you looked to the skies this week you might have caught a glimpse of Finnish jets scrambling to intercept Russian Air Force fighters over the Baltic Sea.

The alarm came on Thursday morning, when two Suhoi SU-27P aircraft were detected. A Finnish F/A-18 Hornet was set to greet them, although they were still in international air space and did not violate Finnish sovereignty.

“The Air Force monitors and secures Finland’s territorial integrity. The monitoring of territorial integrity extends hundreds of kilometers beyond Finland’s borders. Tools for this purpose include mobile and fixed air surveillance radars and other sensors located across the country” explains Tuomas Saavalainen, from Air Force Command.

For operational reasons, the Air Force won’t disclose which base the quick-reaction Hornet was launched from.

“If an airborne target is detected within or approaching Finnish airspace and cannot be identified by flight plan correlation using data from civilian air traffic control agencies or by other available information, the [Air Operations Command] may scramble a fighter to intercept and identify the traffic” says Saavalainen.

The pilot’s mission is to get close enough to determine the nationality and tail number of the planes, and prevent them from infringing Finnish airspace if necessary.

In this case, the pilot took pictures of SU-27P variant, which is a pure fighter-interceptor model, designed to go into combat against other planes, and has no capability to strike targets on the ground.