It was ten years ago when the Hungarian Air Force Gripen were first sent notification for a quick reaction alert. A Honvedelem.hu reports explains in detail how the Hungarian Gripens are used to check airspace violations.
NATO Air Policing ensures the integrity of Allies’ airspace and protects Alliance nations by maintaining 24/7 Air Policing. All airspace protection missions are carried out under the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).
As far as the coordination during air policing is concerned, NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) take care of that: the northern part of Europe is managed from Uedem, Germany, and the southern part from Torrejon, Spain.
Detecting airspace violation
The CAOCs have flight plans for every day and they monitor each and every movement in their assigned skies. When they notice a mysterious plane or a familiar plane deviating from its route or failing to make radio connection, they raise an alarm.
Pilots with aircraft and missiles are kept at the ready 24*7. So when the Hungarian Air Force units receive an alert, the Gripen fighters are scrambled at the earliest. They approach the target plane and try to make a connection as per the protocols. Once verified, the target plane is escorted to an airbase or the border.
Alpha or Tango?
There are two kinds of alarms in context to airspace violations. When a real threat is detected, the unit on duty has to work on the 'Alpha command'. However, when it is an alarm to practice airspace missions like a training, then a 'Tango command' is sent. The entire process of identification, alerts, scramble, verification and the final escort remains the same in both the scenarios. Except in case of real threats, if everything doesn't go as planned i.e. the suspicious pilot doesn't adhere to the instructions, a fire command is issued.
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