Italian F-35A jets intercepted two Russian Su-30 Flankers over the Baltic Sea last week. The Italian Air Force launched the jets from Malbork Air Base, Poland, under NATO command to support the Baltic Air Policing mission. The scramble was ordered by the Combined Air Operations Center in Germany. The Italian F-35s shadowed the Russian jets until they approached Russian airspace. This is not the first time the Italian F-35s have encountered Russian Su-30s. The Italian jets carry out the Quick Reaction Alert service with a lighter configuration, but AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles have been ordered to change this.
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The Italian F-35As deployed to Poland intercepted two Russian Su-30SM Flanker jets over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 21, 2023. One of the intercepted Russian jets was captured on camera, revealing an unarmed aircraft with the bort number 84 blue, indicating it to be one of the most modern Su-30SM2 airframes assigned to the 4th Guards Naval Assault Aviation Regiment of the Baltic Fleet Aviation. Compared to the Su-30SM, the Su-30SM2 has enhanced avionics, ECM and radar control systems, and can carry more weapons.
The Italian F-35s shadowed the Russian Flankers until they approached Russian airspace near Kaliningrad Oblast, following standard air policing procedures. The F-35s belong to the 32nd Wing and 6th Wing of the Italian Air Force, operating under the Task Force Air – 32nd Wing to ensure the integrity and security of NATO airspace on the eastern flank. These F-35s have been previously involved in air policing missions in Iceland and Estonia since 2019.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Italian F-35s have encountered Russian Su-30SM jets. In a previous close encounter, the narrative was misreported, falsely claiming that the Russian aircraft had intercepted the Italian F-35 and caught the pilot off guard. However, no Italian F-35 pilot had ever been authorized to speak to the media. This encounter highlights the importance of accurate and reliable reporting in aviation news.
The Italian F-35s currently carry two AIM-120C5 AMRAAM missiles for their QRA service, but they will soon be equipped with AIM-9X Sidewinder AAMs. David Cenciotti, the author of this article, is an experienced journalist and military aviation expert. As the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist,” he has covered various aviation-related topics and has written several books on the subject.
Fun Fact: The F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet developed by Lockheed Martin. It is known for its advanced capabilities, including radar-evading stealth technology, sensor fusion, and integrated communications systems. The F-35 program involves multiple partner nations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, and many others
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