Two Russian Tu-22M Backfire bombers, together with two Su-27 Flanker fighters have been intercepted by the Swedish JAS39 Gripens. The incident happened together with the beginning of the joint exercise of Swedish, Finnish and US air forces, with the Americans being stationed in Estonia.
The Russian planes, traditionally, were conducting training operations over the Baltic Sea on 24th March. They have been moving at high speeds, with their transponders turned off. Supersonic bombers and fighters from the Kaliningrad-located bases were spotted and identified near the Latvian-Estonian border by the NATO forces responsible for the Baltic Air Policing operations. The Russian intruders were intercepted by a pair of Swedish JAS39 Gripen fighter jets.
The event was coincidental with the joint exercise covering the air-operations, carried out by the Swedish and Finnish Air Forces, together with the American pilots. Aim of this exercise is to increase interoperability of the allied forces. Starting from 20th March, the Estonian Ämari AB has become a home for 14 F-16 Falcon fighters, belonging to the USAF 31st Fighter Wing.
The US pilots will be training together with the Finnish F-18 Hornet crews, while, between 31st March and 1st April, a joint exercise of the US, Finnish and Swedish fighters is planned. Probably these operations would be supported by one of the UK-based KC-135 Stratotankers. The training operations are being conducted over the international water of the Baltic Sea and over the Gulf of Bothnia, located in between Sweden and Finland.