A representative of the NATO alliance, specifically the Belgian Air Force, has taken the rare step of publishing two photos of Russian Su-34 and Su-24 supersonic fighters to its official Twitter account which NATO says were intercepted while patrolling Baltic airspace.
The caption published with the photograph states the images were taken during a month of NATO "safeguarding the Baltic airspace" which included "109 sorties totaling 191 flying hours". The statement continues:
Our F16 aircraft and crew were already scrambled 16 times and performed 8 interceptions. Yesterday our pilots encountered a SU34 and SU-24.
After one month of safeguarding the Baltic airspace, the @BeAirForce conducted already 109 sorties totalising 191 flying hours. Our #F16 aircraft and crew were already scrambled 16 times and performed 8 interceptions. Yesterday our pilots encountered a #SU34 and SU-24. pic.twitter.com/FsnYyO4WYl— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) October 4, 2019
The date indicates the NATO intercept of the Russian jet fighters took place on Thursday, Oct. 3.
Russia's Defense Ministry did not immediately confirm or deny the incident. Such dangerous encounters over the Baltic have occurred with increased regularity of late, especially in the years following Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joining NATO in 2004.
It appears the newly released black and white photographs were taken from the lens of a thermal imager, perhaps because it may have been at night.
According to a recent review of the Su-34, which has been developed as an eventual replacement for the Soviet era Su-24, Russia's latest supersonic aircraft was developed to strike fear into NATO:
With the new electronic warfare suite installed, the Su-34 would able to suppress enemy air defense systems, fighter radars and even airborne radars such as the AWACS according to its manufacturers. The Russians assert that an electronic warfare configured Su-34 could not only provide cover for a group of fighters, but that those jets would “simply disappears from enemy radars.”
The military review concluded that "the Su-34 poses a serious threat to targets all over the North Atlantic and Europe."