Italy Typhoon Jet

On Jan. 30, two Italian Air Force Typhoons deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, were scrambled to identify and escort a Russian Air Force Il-78 Midas flying close to NATO Baltic States airspace, Latvia’s Military said on its official Twitter account.

Although no further details about the mission have been disclosed, it looks like the Russian Il-78 shadowed by the Italians was not one of the tankers that supported the Russian Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers on their 19-hour mission to the Atlantic Ocean earlier this week.

Instead, the Il-78 was probably only flying a training sortie over the Baltic Sea.

Still, the air-policing mission marks the first intercept mission by the Italian F-2000s (as the Typhoons are designated within the Aeronautica Militare) against Russian planes since the Italian Air Force took over the lead role of Baltic Air Policing on Jan. 1.

Russian Air Force missions in the region often require NATO jet fighters on quick reaction alert at several airbase in Lithuania, Estonia and Poland to intercept Il-20 spy planes, Tu-22M Backfire bombers, and Su-27 fighter jets. Such close encounters have become more frequent since the Russian invasion of Crimea and the subsequent international crisis over Ukraine.