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Polish aircraft intercepted Russian Ilyushin Il-20M

On May 3 and 6 of this year, standby pairs of Polish MiG-29s and F-16s intercepted a Russian Il-20M imagery and electronic intelligence aircraft twice over the Baltic Sea.

On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, the Polish Armed Forces Operational Command (DO RSZ) announced on social media that on May 3 and 6 of this year, standby pairs of Polish MiG-29s and F-16s twice intercepted a Russian Ilyushin Il-20M imagery and electronic intelligence aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

Photo: DO RSZ via X

Airspace security is one of the priorities of the Polish Armed Forces. Every day, pilots of the Polish Armed Forces are on alert and ready to ensure the protection of Polish skies.

On May 6, 2024, a standby pair of MiG-29s from the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork intercepted and visually identified an aircraft of the Russian Federation.

The fighters intercepted an Il-20 aircraft, which had taken off from an airport in the Kaliningrad region and continued its flight in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, carrying out a reconnaissance mission without violating Polish territorial waters.

The same aircraft was also intercepted on May 3, 2024, by a standby pair of F-16s from the 31st Tactical Air Base in Krzesiny.

The protection of Polish airspace is the foundation of our country’s security. Thanks to the efficient operation of ground personnel and air crews, we can be sure that we are protected from threats from the air, reads the post by the Operational Command of the Armed Forces on the social media platform X.

According to the attached photograph, the intercepted aircraft is an Il-20M with the registration number RF-93611. This type of aircraft was intercepted over the Baltic Sea on February 13, 2023, by Dutch F-35A Lightning IIs, stationed at the 22nd Tactical Air Base in Malbork, as well as on December 8, 2021, and May 15, 2017, by Polish F-16Cs stationed at the 1st Air Base in Świdwin—all instances as part of supporting the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.

The same Il-20M (RF-93611) was intercepted on November 28, 2022, by a pair of German Eurofighter Typhoons stationed at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia, and again on January 27, 2023. However, this time the standby pair took off from the Rostock-Laage Air Base in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the 73rd Steinhoff Tactical Air Squadron (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 73, TLG 73) is based.

On September 17, 2018, another Russian Il-20M was mistakenly shot down by Syrian air defense with a 15-person crew on board during an Israeli missile attack on targets in Syria.

On April 13, 2014, a Russian Il-20M approached Turkish airspace over the Black Sea and was intercepted by four F-16s, and on October 22, 2014, one of the aircraft violated Estonian airspace.

The Il-20M (NATO code: Coot-A) is a specialized version of the Il-18 aircraft (hence the alternative designation Il-18D-36 Bizon), designed for imagery intelligence (IMINT), communications intelligence (COMINT), and electronic intelligence (ELINT), i.e., the interception of electromagnetic signal emissions. It is equipped with a broad array of optoelectronic sensors including A-87P LOROP, Romb 4, and Vishnaya, as well as a side-looking airborne radar (SLAR) with a phased array antenna, Igla-1, and satellite communication systems for real-time information transfer. The Il-20M prototype was first flown in March 1968. Twenty units were produced, of which 14 remain in service with the Aerospace Forces (VKS).


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