By Emilia Stankeviciute
Russia’s defense ministry said that it was starting to conduct tactical fighter jet exercises over the Baltic Sea with the aim of testing the readiness of flight crews to perform combat and other special operations.
“The crews of the Su-27 (fighter jets) of the Baltic Fleet fired from airborne weapons at cruise missiles and mock enemy aircraft,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app on June 26, 2023. Additionally, the Russian defense ministry announced that it had scrambled two fighter jets as UK Typhoon warplanes approached its border above the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defense reported that Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon fighter jets operating with the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia scrambled to respond to Russian aircraft 21 times in the last 21 days.
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The Sukhoi Su-27, selected by Russia for the exercises over the Baltic Sea, is a twin-engine supermaneuverable fighter aircraft developed by the Soviet Union. Renowned for its speed, range, and heavy armament, it was designed to rival large US fourth-generation fighters such as the F-15 Eagle.
Despite its age, the Su-27 and its modern variants remain key components of Russia’s air combat capabilities and have been widely exported to countries including China and India. The Russian ministry also said Su-27 crews were on “round-the-clock combat duty”, guarding the air space of Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, Moscow’s westernmost state which is wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic coast.
Russia previously deployed warplanes armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles to the Chkalovsk airbase in Kaliningrad as part of its strategic deterrence on August 18, 2022. Russia announced it had begun to hold military exercises in the Baltic Sea on June 5, 2023, a day after NATO member states began their annual Baltic drills.
Up to 40 ships and boats, 25 aircraft, and around 3,500 Russian military personnel took part in the exercises. However, the exercises were scheduled by Moscow to end by June 15, 2023.