NATO scrambled around 350 times for Russian jets in 2020

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2020 file photo, people stop to speak in the Agora atrium prior to a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday, Nov. 30, 2020 that the military alliance is grappling with a dilemma over its future in Afghanistan, as the United States starts pulling troops out while attacks by the Taliban and extremist groups mount. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)

BRUSSELS — NATO says that Russian military activity in the alliance’s airspace increased slightly this year as its jets across Europe scrambled more than 400 times to escort or shadow unknown aircraft.

In a statement released Monday, NATO said almost 90%, or about 350 of these missions, were connected to flights by Russian military aircraft.

“This is a moderate increase from 2019,” NATO said. “Russian military aircraft often do not transmit a transponder code indicating their position and altitude, do not file a flight plan, or do not communicate with air traffic controllers, posing a potential risk to civilian airliners.”

NATO has two air operations centers – one in Germany, covering northern Europe, and one in Spain covering the south – which together monitor all air movements across Europe.