“We certainly don’t see these increased flights and activity as helpful to the security situation in Europe,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in an Oct. 31 press briefing when asked about the increased Russian air activity. “Clearly, they pose the potential risk of escalation. They also, quite frankly, could pose just a potential risk to civil aviation just in the sheer number of and size of and scope of these flights. So, they’re not exactly helpful.”
Later on Oct. 29, NATO radars detected and tracked two Tu-95 Bear-H bombers and two Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Black Sea. Fighters from the Turkish Air Force intercepted the Russian aircraft.
“Actually… so far this year, it has been over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft. And that’s more than three times as much as we had during the whole of last year. So we have seen a substantial increase. But we are doing what we are supposed to do. We intercept. We are ready. And we react.”
Also on the afternoon of Oct. 29, NATO detected and tracked a number of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea, including two MiG-31 Foxhound, two Su-34 Fullback, one Su-27 Flanker and two Su-24 Fencers. Portuguese F-16 Fighters assigned to the Baltic Air Policing Mission were scrambled in response and the Russian aircraft returned to Russian airspace.
“I would like to underline that what we saw yesterday just confirms a pattern that we have seen during the last year,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a press briefing Oct. 30 in Greece. “That is a pattern with an increased air activity by the Russian air force along NATO’s borders. We have seen increased air activity by Russia. But NATO remains vigilant and ready to respond. So the numbers of intercepts by NATO aircraft to intercept Russian aircraft have also increased substantially.
“Actually… so far this year, it has been over 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft. And that’s more than three times as much as we had during the whole of last year. So we have seen a substantial increase. But we are doing what we are supposed to do. We intercept. We are ready. And we react,” Stoltenberg concluded.
“But we’re watching these flights very, very closely,” Kirby said. “I can tell you that there were more flights today [Oct.31] – NATO-tracked flights out over the Baltics and North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft involved fighter jets, long-range bombers, and tanker aircraft.
“So we’re watching this closely. And again, what we’d ask authorities in Russia to do is to take steps, concrete tangible steps to reduce tension, not increase it,” Kirby concluded.