NATO: Jets Scrambled 290 Times; Mostly Due to Russia

BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO fighter jets were scrambled hundreds of times this year to intercept aircraft, most of them Russian warplanes in northwest Europe that were flying too close to the airspace of its member countries, the military organization said Tuesday.

NATO said that 290 of around 370 total missions were flown in 2021 in response to the activities of Russian aircraft. Most of those took place in the Baltic region around Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, where the organization has an air-policing operation.

"Generally, intercepts occurred without incident as NATO planes take off to identify the approaching aircraft and escort it out of the area. Very few intercepted flights entered allied airspace," a statement from the 30-country U.S.-led alliance said.

NATO intercept flights are a routine occurrence. But despite high tensions between NATO and Moscow over the activities of Russian armed forces near Ukraine's borders in recent months, the number of Russia-linked intercepts decreased this year.

In 2020, NATO jets scrambled around 350 times in response to Russian planes.

More than 60 NATO jets are on round-the-clock alert across Europe to respond to things like unannounced military flights or civilian planes losing communication with air-traffic controllers for any reason, which could range from technical problems to hijacking.