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Poland scrambles F-16s to defend airspace during Russian attacks on Ukraine

by Abbey Fenbert January 3, 2024 5:31 AM 2 min read
F-16 aircrafts during a military parade on Polish Armed Forces Day in Warsaw, Poland on Aug. 15, 2023. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Poland scrambled two pairs of F-16 fighter jets to protect Polish airspace during Russia's large-scale attack against Ukraine on Jan. 2, the Polish army's Operational Command reported on X.  

A Russian missile entered Polish airspace from the Ukrainian side of the border during a massive drone and missile attack on Dec. 29, prompting Poland to put its air defenses on high alert.

Poland, a NATO member, made the decision to mobilize fighter jets on the morning of Jan. 2, as Russian forces launched another large-scale aerial attack on Ukraine.

"In order to ensure the safety of Polish airspace, two pairs of F-16 fighters and an allied air tanker were activated," the Operational Command reported.

The jets were launched from bases in Lask and Krzesiny early on Jan. 2.

"We would like to inform you that intensive long-range aviation activity of the Russian Federation is being observed, which is related to carrying out strikes on the territory of Ukraine," the announcement said.

The Jan. 2 attacks against Ukraine targeted the country's largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, killing five people and injuring 130. The attacks also struck critical infrastructure facilities, causing power outages.

Poland did not report airspace violations during the Jan. 2 attack.

The Polish government summoned Russian charge d'affaires Andrei Ordash for an explanation of the Dec. 29 incident, in which an aerial object, likely a Russian missile, entered Polish airspace for three minutes.

According to Russian state media, Ordash said the Kremlin has no explanation to offer unless Poland provides "concrete evidence" that it was in fact a Russian missile.

Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Teofil Bartoszewski told reporters that further border violations from Russia will be met "with a stronger reaction."

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