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Norway's Baltic F-16 in first run-in with Russians

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Norway's Baltic F-16 in first run-in with Russians
The Norwegian F-16 escorting the Russian Antonov An-22 on Sunday. Photo: Norwegian Air Force
20:14 CEST+02:00
The Norwegian F-16 aircraft sent to guard Nato’s eastern border have had their first run-in with a Russian aircraft, after an Antonov An-22 transport aircraft came close to entering Lithuanian airspace.
According to Norway’s TV2 channel, the Russian aircraft remained in international airspace continually, giving the Norwegian pilot no cause to intervene.  But it did not have its transponders on, as this is not a requirement for aircraft travelling through international airspace. 
 
Norway on Thursday took over the revolving Nato mission in the Baltic States, which it will carry out for the next four months. 
 
Italy, the last country to have the job, sent its fighters out no fewer than 60 times in four months to intercept Russian planes.
 
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in November warned that the growing number of Russian military flights close to Nato borders is a threat to civil aviation.
 
“The problem is that many of the Russian pilots don’t turn on their transponders, they don’t file their flight plans and they don’t communicate with civilian air traffic control," he complained. "This poses a risk to civilian air traffic and therefore this is a problem, especially when the Russian activity increases – because they have more Russian military planes in the air.”
 
In December a Norwegian F-16 found itself in a near collision with a Russian MiG, which suddenly appears at its right. 
 
"We don't know if this was a mistake by the Russian pilot, or a sign of a more aggressive behaviour by the Russians,” Norwegian Armed Forces spokesman Brynjar Stordal told the Wall Street Journal.
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