NATO Scrambled Fighters 370 Times in 2021

Via NATO Air Command:

NATO fighter jets scrambled around 370 times across Europe in 2021, mostly to check aircraft flying unannounced near Allied air space.

Around 80 percent of the missions, 290 in total, were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.

Russia Air Force Ilyushin Il-78 Midas, RF-94269, and a German Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoon over the Baltic. In related news, Germany declared the MBDA-made Meteor missile ready for use by the Luftwaffe in the summer of 2021

An Italian F-35 intercepts a really modded Russian Ilyushin Il-18, the rare EW/COMINT sniffing Ilyushin IL-22PP Porubschik (RF-90786), near Allied airspace in the Baltic Sea Region. The Italian Air Force was the first to deploy 5th Gen fighters in Baltic Air Policing. Photo courtesy of Italian Air Force.

Classic-on-classic! Early 1980s F-16A Fighting Falcon fighter jets of the Portuguese Air Force out of Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, intercepted Russian military aircraft, including a newly modernized Tupolev Tu-95MS Bear bomber, during an Air Policing mission over the Baltic, November 2021.

Last year’s figures are actually down from 2020, as noted by the alliance in December 2020:

NATO air forces across Europe scrambled more than 400 times in 2020 to intercept unknown aircraft approaching Alliance airspace. Almost 90 percent of these missions – around 350 – were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft.


  • Its the mishmash of aircraft types that the Russians are sending over to make the probing is what’s puzzling me (i.e. Tankers and Cargo Planes). Which probable says something as far as reliability and/or availability of their normal combat aircrafts. I remember hearing about an An-22 crew crashing an Tu-95 in 2017(?), simply because they weren’t trained to specifically fly the Tu-95, yet both aircrafts using the same engines. Does the Russian AF have a shortage of trained combat aircraft pilots, where their being forced to reallocate transport pilots to perform their duties, even if it means flying their own aircrafts that they were trained on…

    • I’m sure a lot of it is the air bridge to Kaliningrad (ex-German Königsberg) which, to be fair, is a Russian island in a sea of NATO. I’d imagine the Russian MOD figures since they run daily transpo flights between Petersburg and Kaliningrad, if they stray within a mile or two of Baltic NATO airspace and force the alliance to add hours to their fighters, so much the better, right?

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