The skies over the Baltic Sea were quite busy over the last week, the air forces of the United Kingdom and Norway scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on a record number of occasions NATO reported, according to the Financial Times.
Over 250 incursions have been intercepted this year alone, the most since the Cold War, with nearly half over the Baltic Sea (as previously reported, a percentage of intercepts also occurred over the Pacific). Last week, Estonian-based Eurofighter Typhoons from the British Royal Air Force intercepted a ten-plane flight of Su-34 Fullback attackers, MiG-31 Foxbat interceptors, and An-26 transports. Then, on Wednesday, Norwegian F-16 fighters based in Lithuania scrambled to shadow a 12-plane flight of MiG-31s, Su-24 Fencer attack fighters, and three cargo aircraft. In both cases, the NATO fighters were part of the Baltic Air Policing mission, FT reports.
The problem presented by the Russian aircraft isn't necessarily their presence over the Baltic Sea, but rather for their flippant attitude towards other aircraft in the region. Russian military aircraft routinely "fly without their transponders switched on, without filing flights plans, and without communicating with air traffic authorities," a NATO official told FT. The European Air Safety Agency has called Russia's flights "high risk" to civilian aircraft.
At this point, it's still unclear what Russia hopes to accomplish with its saber-rattling flights.