A Russian Sukhoi Su 30-SM fighter jet and two F-35-A Lightning II aircraft of the Italian Air Force were involved in an aerial interception over the Baltic Sea, according to reports.
A video shared on Instagram showed a Russian Su-30SM Flanker and two US-made F-35s flying alongside somewhere off Estonia, the location where these Italian stealth jets are deployed to conduct Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) as a part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.
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It is believed the F-35s took over NATO’s Baltic mission from the German Air Force Eurofighter unit, which had previously been stationed there.
The F-35A fighter jets can be seen approaching a Russian An-12 transport aircraft which was escorted by a Su 30-SM fighter jet to Kaliningrad.
As soon as the F-35A was flying in close range of the An-12 transport aircraft, the Russian Su 30SM suddenly flew close to the Italian fighter forcing it to retreat.
The F-35A fighter jets involved in this intercept came from Amendola Air Base in southeastern Italy.
This was the first unit of the Aeronautica Militare to obtain the Lightning II aircraft in 2016 and the first in Europe to receive Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2018, according to The Aviationist.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American fifth-generation single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole fighter jet. Considered the most technologically advanced airplane ever built, it combines high-end stealth with unmatched situational awareness.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive weapons program of the US military. Supported by advanced data capturing and a robust communication suite, it can conduct mission operations electronically, The EurAsian Times reported earlier.
The Su-30SM is a modernized 4+ generation version of the original Russian Su-30 fighter aircraft. It is a super-maneuverable multi-role fighter that was created according to the specifications of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
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The current generation Su-30SM and their variants have the AL-31F engine on board which provides a maximum thrust of 12,500 kilogram-force. Being a super-maneuverable jet, it is one of the world’s finest dogfighters with upgrades being done to equip it with credible BVR engagement options (beyond visual range).
The Su-30SM is considered a combat-ready fighter, although its production has been halted in favor of the more competent Su-30SM2 which is at present starting its service in the Russian Air Force.
There is speculation that the decision to send a Su-30SM to escort a basic transport over the Baltics may have been based on intelligence that an F-35 would be present to provide an opportunity to run in with the American-built fighter, according to an analysis published by militarywatchmagazine.
Written by Kashish Tandon