In a year marked by heightened tensions, Nato air forces intercepted Russian military aircraft more than 300 times in 2023, with the majority of incidents unfolding over the Baltic Sea. 

The alliance’s ongoing air-policing missions aim to respond to unpredictable manoeuvres by Russian planes approaching Nato airspace, emphasising the role of air defence in the face of evolving security challenges.

The alliance’s air-policing missions, triggered by signs of Russian planes approaching alliance airspace in unconventional manners, show Nato’s commitment to safeguarding its members.

Nato’s eastern flank witnessed a historical pattern of Russian military aircraft operating without transmitting transponder codes or filing flight plans. Despite these encounters, the vast majority were characterised by professionalism, with breaches of Nato airspace remaining infrequent and short-duration.

Acting Nato spokesperson Dylan White emphasised the severity of the security situation in Europe amid Russia’s conflict with Ukraine. White stated: “Nato fighter jets are on duty around the clock, ready to scramble in case of suspicious or unannounced flights near the airspace of our allies. Air policing is an important way in which Nato provides security for our Allies.”

In response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Nato significantly bolstered its air defences along the eastern flank. The reinforcement included additional fighter jets, surveillance flights, and ground-based air defences. 

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By GlobalData

Notably, after Russian strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure near Nato territory, extra fighter jets were deployed to Romania. Following subsea pipeline ruptures in the Baltic Sea, NATO responded by sending additional capabilities to the region.

Russia is threatened by the eastward expansion of the Nato alliance and is wary of the possibility of countries such as Ukraine, which was firmly within its sphere of influence, being subsumed into the Nato alliance. Russia feels at risk from the steady approach of military infrastructure and resources closer to its frontiers, according to GlobalData’s “Russia Defense Market 2022-2027” report.

Highlighting the alliance’s commitment to collective defence, Nato conducted its largest-ever air exercise in 2023, named “Air Defender 23.” With more than 250 aircraft participating, the exercise aimed to enhance readiness and coordination for the alliance’s collective defence.