NewsPolish and allied aircraft scramble in response to Russian activity

Polish and allied aircraft scramble in response to Russian activity

Another attack and alert for F-16. "People are prepared"
Another attack and alert for F-16. "People are prepared"
Images source: © East News
5:44 AM EDT, March 30, 2024
Polish and allied aircraft were scrambled once again in response to a significant Russian attack on Ukraine. The Operational Command of the Armed Forces has released statements regarding this situation. "We want to ensure citizens are aware and prepared for such occurrences within the specified area," explains Gen. Tomasz Drewniak.
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Over the last week, engagements involved Polish and allied jets on two occasions. On Sunday, March 24, Russian forces launched a missile attack on Ukraine from 14 Tu-95 strategic bombers, targeting primarily the Lviv region.
The next incident occurred on Friday, March 29 when Russia carried out another round of aerial attacks on Ukraine utilizing long-range aviation. Early that day, the Operational Command disseminated reports about the aircraft deployment for "air space monitoring."

"Citizens in Poland receive a clear message"

The communication strategy concerning such incidents has seen a noticeable shift with the change of power in Poland. But what lies behind the statements from the Operational Command of the Armed Forces?
"Citizens in Poland are clearly informed. The aim is to prevent scenarios that have happened before, where people circulated conspiracy theories after witnessing an airplane pass by or hearing a loud sound. Engaging in such narratives serves no constructive purpose. The current approach by the Operational Command of the Armed Forces is much more effective. By informing citizens beforehand, it ensures they are better prepared for any such events in the designated area," Gen. Tomasz Drewniak explained in an interview with Wirtualna Polska.

On Friday, Polish airspace remained secure without incidents. However, the situation was different on Sunday when a missile entered Polish airspace, remaining for 39 seconds.

The missile was not intercepted. Not taking action against the Russian missile that trespassed into Polish airspace was a mistake, according to Estonian diplomat and former head of foreign intelligence Rainer Saks, who believes Russia should have been sent a definitive message regarding this incursion.

The only protocol during peacetime

Why then the scrambling of aircraft? "Having jets in the sky is the safest and most reliable method to achieve full target identification," Gen. Drewniak adds, noting that through radar systems, mounted optoelectronic systems like the Sniper on F-16s, or direct visual confirmation, they can ascertain a target's identity.
The military emphasizes that this is the exclusive protocol employed during peacetime.
"If a threat is detected and we desire control over the situation, employing fighter jets to identify the target through various means is the only peacetime strategy. Properly identifying what we're dealing with is crucial before engaging. This measure ensures we avoid mistakenly targeting friendly or civilian aircraft," Gen. Drewniak underlines.

Concerns over shooting down a missile and falling debris

Taking down a missile isn't straightforward due to the potential hazard caused by falling debris. The operational commander is obliged to weigh the repercussions of authorizing weapon use.
"We need to remember that we are operating under a peacetime legal framework, not wartime, so every decision must consider the safety of civilians. We don't have the liberty to act without evaluating the potential fallout, literally, since whatever we shoot down has to land somewhere," Operational Commander of the Armed Forces Gen. div. Maciej Klisz explained in an interview with "Rzeczpospolita."
Lt. Col. Jacek Goryszewski, spokesperson for the Operational Command, admitted that an attempt to interdict the missile would pose a bigger risk to nearby civilians than allowing it to pass through Polish airspace independently.
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