NATO Ramps Up Maritime Air Patrols in Baltic Sea

The move follows the damaging of a telecom cable connecting Sweden and Estonia.

NATO has ramped up surveillance and reconnaissance flights in the Baltic Sea region following reports of possible sabotage of undersea infrastructure.

Those additional flights include maritime air patrols, NATO airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft, and drones, the military alliance said. NATO’s fleet of AWACS aircraft are distinctive with their radar dome mounted on the Boeing E-3A fuselage, offering air surveillance, command and control, battle space management, and communications capabilities. A fleet of 14 AWACS aircraft is based at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen, Germany.

“We continue to monitor the situation closely, and we remain in close contact with our allies Estonia and Finland, and our partner Sweden,” acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White said Thursday. “NATO will continue to adapt its maritime posture in the Baltic Sea and will take all necessary steps to keep allies safe.” 

Earlier this week, defense officials in Sweden confirmed a telecom cable connecting the country with Estonia had been damaged around the same time a Finnish-Estonian pipeline and cable were damaged earlier in October, Reuters reported. Finnish investigators said they identified a Russian-flagged ship and a Chinese vessel operating in the area at the time of the pipeline and cable damage, however, no firm conclusions have been made regarding whether it was accidental or deliberate.

Estonian defense minister Hanno Pevkur said the enhanced patrols underscore NATO’s vigilance.

“The decision does not mean that there is an increased military threat,” Pevkur told Reuters. “Instead, it shows that relations between allies are strong, and NATO as a whole sees the protection of critical infrastructure as an important issue.”


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