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PICTURES: German Eurofighters intercept Russian transport, surveillance aircraft

The German air force has had a busy opening three weeks to its first NATO deployment involving the Eurofighter combat aircraft, with so-called "Alpha" scrambles having been launched to intercept Russian air force transport and surveillance assets.

Two aircraft from the Luftwaffe’s Fighter Wing 74 (FW74) were first launched from Lithuania's Siauliai air base soon after assuming the air policing mission for NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 1 September.

Eurofighter partner company Alenia Aeronautica says the pair took off within 6min of receiving an order to intercept a contact in international airspace over the Baltic Sea which turned out to be a Russian Antonov An-72 transport. The fighters were alongside it within a further 9min. “The An-72 remained in the area for over 50min, always closely monitored,” the company says.


Both images © Luftwaffe, via Alenia Aeronautica
The An-72 was intercepted within a period of 15min

The Luftwaffe says a second intercept was performed on 15 September, after another aircraft "flew very close past the border of the Baltic airspace". Its Eurofighters flew close to a Russian air force Ilyushin Il-76-based A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft, prompting two accompanying Sukhoi Su-27 fighters to break away from the surveillance aircraft. These were subsequently intercepted by Finnish air force fighters.

© Luftwaffe
The A-50 had been accompanied by Su-27 fighters

Ordinarily based at Neuburg-Donau in southern Germany, FW74 will maintain its detachment of Eurofighters in Lithuania until 1 November, when they will hand over responsibilities to German air force McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantoms for another two months.

Germany’s Eurofighters are armed with Diehl BGT Defence IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missiles and a 27mm Mauser cannon for the air policing mission.

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