Russian Combat Aircraft Accounted For 290 Of 370 NATO Sorties in 2021


NATO announced this week that, of some 370 total missions flown by its combat aircraft in 2021, 290 involved “response to the activities of Russian aircraft.” Most of those were warplanes operating in northwest Europe that “were flying too close to the airspace of member countries.”

Most of the intercepts played out in the Baltic region near Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In a statement, NATO reported, “Generally, intercepts occurred without incident as NATO planes take off to identify the approaching aircraft and escort it out of the area. Very few intercepted flights entered allied airspace.”

Still, despite growing tensions surrounding Russia’s military buildup along the border with Ukraine, NATO reports the number of Russia-linked intercepts actually decreased this year. In 2020, NATO scrambled alert aircraft some 350 times in response to Russian planes.

The international peacekeeping group reports that more than 60 NATO jets are on 24/7/365 standby status throughout Europe, available at a moment’s notice to respond to events such as “unannounced military flights or civilian planes losing communication with air-traffic controllers for any reason, which could range from technical problems to hijacking,” NATO said.

Most of the incidents over the past year involved identifying and diverting Russian aircraft, which is an aerial cat-and-mouse game that both sides have come to see as almost routine. According to NATO, all this year’s interactions played out “without incident … very few of the intercepted aircraft entered the airspace of the Allies.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. The entire mess in Ukrainian was started by Hillary Clinton when she was Sec of State under Obama. Most messes around the world were Clinton disasters… Bush Sr appointee messed up the Iraq with one statement… “We have no treaty with Kuwait.”
    We have had some major screw ups by politicians that have got thousands killed for no really good reason.

    • How could BrunHilary start Russian aggression against The Ukraine?

      POTUS Biden has been pointing former KGB agent Putin to 2014, warning that US response to more aggression against The Ukraine would be met with much tougher action.

      (Biden was V-P in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea area of the Ukraine, Clinton was not Secretary of State then.

      Putin has been playing culture and nationalism like a violin, claiming a long history of Russia, Ukaraine, and Belarus which has a despotic head of state who favours Putin. He has demanded NATO do less for Ukraine, which I do not understand since NATO partnered with Ukraine in 1994. But hey! any line that might confuse people is worth tossing out especially if it reinforces support within Russia.)

      • And Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred in 1990.

        I judge BrunHilary and Slick Willie as scummy, but let’s get history straight.

    • Last time I checked, this forum was dedicated to aviation and not some idiot drivel relating to someone’s self disposed crap.

  2. Must you need reminding, a critical factor when evaluating combat military aircraft? It’s not the hardware, i.e. aircraft, it’s the Pilot and Warfare Officer who make military aircraft superior… Al

  3. This is just the standard “mating dance” that goes on between opposing military powers. One probes here and observes the response, then probes there and sees what happens. Over time it maps out the other side’s radar surveillance capabilities and what aircraft are located in that region and how quickly they can respond. It’s been going on since the 1950s and I suspect we do the same to them.

      • Which makes me wonder … how many times did the Russians feel the need to intercept OUR aircraft in the same time frame?