In 2020, NATO air forces across Europe scrambled more than 400 times to intercept unknown aircraft approaching Alliance airspace, according to a report on the official NATO website.
Almost 90% of the intercepted aircraft belonged to the Russian Federation. In 2020, NATO air forces operated approximately 350 missions to intercept Russian military aircraft.
According to the Alliance’s statement, this poses a potential risk to civilian airliners. In particular, Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers.
The North Atlantic Alliance, which includes 30 states as of 2020, is constantly monitoring airspace throughout Europe. Some 40 air surveillance radars and about 60 NATO jets are on duty 24/7 to serve as a quick-response force for aircraft that fall into distress or defy international flying rules near Alliance airspace.
NATO has operated a Baltic Air Policing mission for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania since the three countries joined the Alliance in 2004. NATO also provides Air Policing coverage for Allies in the Western Balkans who do not have fighter jets of their own: Albania, Slovenia, and Montenegro. Allies have also helped to police the skies of Romania, Bulgaria, and Iceland in 2020.