Read the original text at Die Welt.
The military carrier "Gediminas" has already gone through a lot of things. The machine of the Lithuanian Air Force is particularly in demand when the situation is delicate. Soldiers from the largest Baltic States were flown (with the C-27J Spartan transport aircraft) to foreign aid in crisis areas such as Afghanistan or Central Africa. During NATO exercise "Ramstein Alloy 4", the air transporter from the Lithuanian military airport in Siauliai started a special mission - as a bait above the domestic sky.
In the air maneuver, NATO fighters identify and accompany a civilian aircraft that has lost its radio contact to air traffic control. It is unidentified in the airspace at the NATO border on Lithuania. High above the Baltic Sea, the fighters must therefore approach the unknown machine. Visually, the pilot must check whether a suspected aircraft is at risk or there is an unusual situation on the board.
In German airspace, there are some complicated situations too. The contact with a passenger aircraft had broken off in northern Germany over the course of a whole minute, so the air raid was intermittent.
Standardized actions in case of loss of contact concern not only civil aircraft, but also military vehicles. Security in the sky over the northern part of Europe is monitored by the NATO Air Defense Directorate in Uedem on the lower Rhine. An international team of soldiers on radar screens controls the air movement over the North and Baltic Seas up to the Alps. The area to the south is controlled in Torrejon, Spain, near Madrid.
Security of NATO's airspace - the so-called NATO air police - is ensured from control centers. About 870 launches were recorded in both centers over the past year (since the Cold War so many launches have not been recorded). In most cases, the reason for the launches was Russian military aircraft, approaching the territories of NATO countries.
After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, NATO, as a sign of solidarity, has strengthened airspace control over the Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Nowhere else are NATO troops approaching Russia as closely as in the international airspace over the Baltic, where the distance is less than 5 km (in the narrowest place).
From the side of the Western Alliance, fears are connected with the fact that Moscow’s planes often fly without warning or electronic signals. Also, according to NATO, the communication signal is often avoided. Thus, their air route is invisible to civil aviation security navigation systems, which, unlike military radars, cannot detect aircraft flying without identification signals.
If Russian planes approach the borders of the Baltic countries without identification, NATO gives the command to launch an emergency group. It is formed from two armed fighters, stationed in Estonian Emary and Lithuanian Siauliai. They must be in the air within 15 minutes - this is the NATO standard for emergency measures. Team in Uedem decides from which center they start.
Gedeminas are easy to recognize. The military aircraft is almost 23 meters long, almost 10 meters high, and the wingspan is 20 meters. The twin-engine aircraft rises from the runway with a strong push, races in the rainy weather, and circulates at a speed of about 500 km/h over the Baltic Sea.
Information about who or what expects the pilots in case of an alarm in the air, they find out only in the cockpit. "In the course of the operation you never know what might happen," says the Dutch pilot. "It's a challenge." There is little information, but there is a lot of adrenaline and maximum power."
“After rapprochement with someone else's plane at emergency frequencies, we use visual signs to come into contact with the pilots. When we know their intent and communication is restored, then we let them away," says the Dutch pilot. Then the fighters go back to the center of the basing.