The incident in question took place on 15th May this year, when the aircraft based in the Baltic states were scrambled twice to intercept the potential intruders that were flying with their transponders turned off, not reacting to the attempts to establish communications with them.
F-18A+ Hornet aircraft based at the Estonian Amari airbase were first to receive a QRA signal coming from the Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany. The objective of their mission, as it turned out, was to intercept a Russian Su-24M Fencer bomber which took-off from one of the Kaliningrad-located airbases.
Around an hour later, Polish F-16 jets, remaining on QRA duty at the Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, were scrambled too. The Polish jets have intercepted a Russian Il-20M reconnaissance aircraft flying over the Baltic Sea. Once the intruder was identified, the jets returned to base.
Il-20 is one of the rarely mentioned derivatives of the Il-18 turboprop aircraft. It is used to carry out reconnaissance sorties in the areas close to the borders. This is possible thanks to the SIGINT and RADINT equipment installed onboard, including the hardware that enables the crew to intercept VHF radio chatter, Igla side-looking radar underneath the fuselage, along with photo-cameras. Il-20 aircraft have gone through a number of upgrade programmes, without any successor being developed.