Two F-35 stealth multi-role combat aircraft have intercepted a formation of three Russian military aircraft near Poland.
The Dutch F-35s were scrambled by a quick reaction alert after the then-unknown formation approached the Polish NATO area of responsibility from Kaliningrad, according to the Netherlands Minister of Defence on 13 February.
Dutch pilots were able to intercept and identify the other aircraft group as a Russian IL-20M Coot-A reconnaissance aircraft that was accompanied by two SU-27 Flanker twin-engine super-manoeuvrable fighter jets.
“The Dutch F-35s escorted the formation from a distance and handed over the escort to NATO partners,” a Dutch spokesperson said.
The sortie is the first Dutch F-35 interception from Poland after eight aircraft were sent to be stationed in the area for February and March.
Four combat aircraft are operating from Malbork Air Base for surveillance of NATO airspace above Eastern Europe, including two F-35s held in reserve to intercept aircraft.
The other four F-35s are undertaking a training program with NATO allies and can be recalled immediately if the situation requires it, according to the Dutch spokesperson.