Four Belgian Air Force F-16s are taking part in the NATO operation from a base in the north of Poland.
During a visit to the Belgian aircrews based in Poland, the Belgian Defence Minister Steven Vandeput (Flemish nationalist) was told that the heightened tension between Russia and the West in recent weeks has not gone unnoticed.
Since the beginning of the year the four Belgian F-16 have been patrolling the skies above the Baltic States. This is the fourth time that Belgian has helped Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, none of whom have fighter jets of their own.
In the light of the situation in Ukraine and the annexation by Russia of the Crimea, NATO decided to increase its presences on its eastern flank. This has served to heighten tension between NATO and Russia. During NATO’s recent exercise (between 16 and 18 June) the Belgian F-16 crews noticed an increase in Russian activity in the airspace they patrol.
Since January, the Belgian Air Force planes have been scrambled 14 times to intercept Russian planes. 10 of these scrambles have been during the past two months.
The Russians never actually enter NATO airspace, but they come very close. Often the planes are on their way to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. However, some of the flights intercepted are spying flights along the German, Swedish, Danish and Polish coasts.