The CAOC Torrejón is one of the two centers that direct these missions

NATO explains the interception flights of its fighters, coordinated in part from Spain

Europe is experiencing a new Cold War which, like the previous one, has one of its main fronts in our airspace.

E-7A Wedgetail, the new radar aircraft chosen by NATO to replace its E-3 Sentry
An airman shows the interior of the E-3 Sentry, the sophisticated radar aircraft operated by NATO

There are four fronts in which these interception missions are carried out in a regular way:

  • The Baltic Sea, due to the regular transit of Russian aircraft to and from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, often bordering the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, but also violating the airspace of Sweden even carrying nuclear weapons, as happened two years ago, before that country joined NATO.
  • The Black Sea, where Russian military flights can pose a threat to NATO countries in that region (Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey).
  • The North Atlantic, where Russian military flights from the Kola Peninsula may pose a threat to the airspace of Norway, Denmark (through the Faroe Islands and Greenland), Iceland, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Canada and the United States.
  • The Bering Strait and the Arctic Circle, where Russian flights could be a threat to the airspace of the United States and Canada.
A Sukhoi Su-24 "Fencer" attack aircraft of the Russian Air Force photographed by a Spanish EF-18M from the 15th Wing deployed in Lithuania in 2021 (Photo: Estado Mayor de la Defensa).

Currently, the Baltic Sea is the most active area of ​​Russian air raids violating international aviation standards, with frequent flights in which Russian planes have their transponders turned off and without communicating their flight plan to the civil air controls. This forces fighters from other allied countries to be deployed in the small Baltic republics, since they lack their own combat aircraft. These missions are called by NATO as Baltic Air Policing (BAP).

A Spanish Eurofighter from the 14th Wing intercepting a Russian Beriev A-50 early warning aircraft (AWACS) over the Baltic Sea in June 2021 (Photo: NATO AIRCOM).

This Thursday, NATO published an interesting video in which it briefly shows what an interception mission for allied fighters consists of, missions that are coordinated from two large Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOC), Torrejón (CAOC TJ, in Spain, which covers the air traffic in southern Europe) and Uedem (CAOC EU, in Germany, which covers northern Europe). The video indicates that the fighters in charge of these missions operate from 32 bases:

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