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Escalation Risk? Hours After USAF Drone Downed, Nato Jets Intercept Russian Planes Over Baltic

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It was revealed that fighter jets from the Royal Air Force of the UK and the German Air Force intercepted a Russian strategic oil tanker on Tuesday. This happened just hours after the USAF lost an unmanned drone in a battle with Russian jets above the Black Sea.

Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft from Germany and the United Kingdom were assigned to the NATO Baltic air policing mission. They were deployed Tuesday to intercept a Russian military plane near Estonia. The aircraft failed to respond to Estonian air traffic controllers, according to the Ministry of Defence.

The NATO jets identified the Ilyushin Il-78, an air-refueling tanker flying from Russia to Kaliningrad. This Russian exclave state is located between Poland and Lithuania, previously known as Konigsberg. The jets then escorted an Antonov An-148 airliner, another Russian aircraft, to Kaliningrad.

Breitbart London was able to see a Ministry of Defence statement that described the attempt to intercept the Russian plane. It said: “We were scrambled in order to intercept an aircraft approaching Estonian airspace. It was identified and tracked as it passed close to NATO airspace. We will intercept any aircraft that is not in communication with Air Traffic Control, or on a recognized flight plan. This will ensure safety for all users of airspace.

Just hours before an unmanned USAF drone, a Reaper drone, was lost in the Baltic, the interception occurred. The United States claimed that the Russian air force had attacked and downed the recon drone. They flew aggressively close to it, dropped jet fuel onto it and came into contact with its propeller, which caused it to lose power and crash into water.

The U.S. also accused Russia of acting in an unsound environment because they poured aviation fuel from their tanks onto their drones — possibly to set ablaze or confuse optical sensors.

The U.S. summoned the Russian ambassador to the incident. Russia insists on its innocence and states that the drone crashed without any assistance from fighters. It also aggressively targets what they claim is Russian airspace.

Even though the incident resulted in no deaths, there are potential risks for escalation when equipment is brought down like Reaper drones. Nearly a retaliatory strike was launched against Iran, which could have resulted in hundreds of deaths after an Iranian military Reaper drone was brought down in 2019. The attack was called off after President Trump decided that killing large numbers of people as a retaliation to an unmanned aircraft was not right.

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