Russian airplanes usually fly around the area with the transponder off

Confrontation between a Spanish EF-18M and two Russian Su-27 fighters over the Baltic Sea

One of the fighters of 12th Wing of the Spanish Air Force deployed in Šiauliai, Lithuania, has had a serious confrontation with two Russian Sukhoi Su-27 «Flanker» fighters over the Baltic Sea.

Baltic: the maneuver of the Spanish EF-18 that left the Russian Su-27 fighter at a disadvantage
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Sputnik News publishes a video recorded by the Russians in which something does not add up

The video of the incident was published early this afternoon by the Sputnik News website, owned by the Russian state agency Rossiya Segodnya and one of the most active media of the Vladimir Putin regime. Sputnik News does not indicate on what date this incident took place. The video would have been recorded from the plane carrying Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and consists of three sequences. In the first one we see the supposed transport plane of the Russian minister escorted to port by a Su-27 at a distance. In the second take, from the second 0:06, we see the Spanish fighter (C.15-68, 12-26) flying near the Russian transport plane, by port.

It is a strange succession of events: how could the EF-18M get so close if a Su-27 was escorting the Russian transport plane? This indicates that something is missing in the video, which for some reason the Kremlin has not considered convenient to show. Perhaps the Russian fighters had withdrawn from their escort mission and returned to detect the EF-18M? From the second 0:17 we see the Spanish plane abruptly porting, trying to avoid a collision with one of the two Su-27 approaching from its starboard side (we see it appear in the second 0:20). The purpose of the Russian fighter was clear: to separate the Spanish plane from the Russian transport plane. The third sequence begins at the second 0:33: we see the Su-27 flying again on the port side of the Russian transport plane, although closer than at the beginning of the video. At the moment, the Spanish Ministry of Defense has not ruled on this incident.

What Sputnik doesn’t count: the insistence of the Russians to turn off the transponder

According to Sputnik, the Russian minister’s flight was due to his assistance to the 2019 Army Games, which began a few days ago in the Kaliningrad Oblast, a former German East Prussian territory that the USSR appropriated during World War II, and whose capital, Kaliningrad (formerly called Königsberg) was the hometown of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. The Kaliningrad Oblast is a Russian exclave surrounded by Poland and Lithuania and a constant source of incidents between Russia and NATO, due to Russian flights in the area, sometimes over international waters and occasionally over the airspace of the Baltic republics. In fact, what Sputnik News does not say in its news is that these interceptions are increasingly common because of the insistence of Russian airplanes to fly with the transponder off. The transponder is an electronic device that identifies an airplane. If you fly with it off, air safety procedures require the takeoff of fighters to identify the aircraft in question. This identification includes a photographic shot of the intercepted aircraft. That is the mission that the Spanish EF-18M would be carrying out, and hence it flew near the Russian transport plane.

The mission of the Vilkas Detachment of the Air Force in Lithuania

The Spanish EF-18M that has taken part in this incident is one of the five fighters of this type that 12th Wing has in Šiauliai, forming part of the Vilkas Detachment. They are deployed there since May and will be released shortly. The purpose of this NATO mission is the so-called Baltic Air Police (BAP), whereby the member countries of the Atlantic Alliance contribute to the air defense of the Baltic republics, whose reduced air forces do not have their own fighter planes. Currently, these five aircraft of Wing 12 share their task in Šiauliai with four JAS-39C Gripen fighters of the Hungarian Air Force. In addition, the Royal Air Force has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

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