'NATO' F-16s 'intercept' Lebanese airliner travelling through Greek airspace
A Lebanese airliner carrying 145 passengers was dramatically intercepted by two Greek F-16s last week as it flew between Madrid and Beirut.
The Middle East Airlines (MEA) Airbus A321 was traveling in Greek airspace on 10 August when the fighter jets approached the carrier, sparking conflicting reports about the reasons for the escort.
A video shared by Intel Sky shows a Greek F-16 flying beside the wings of an aircraft that displays the cedar tree livery of Lebanon's national carrier.
"Code Renegade set Greek authorities on alert following a relevant signal by the NATO air control center in Spain (CAOC Torrejón), to intercept a non-responsive civil aircraft Airbus A321 with 145 passengers onboard that had taken off from Madrid and was bound for Beirut," the tweet read.
Code Renegade set Greek authorities on alert following a relevant signal by the NATO air control center in Spain (CAOC Torrejón), to intercept a non-responsive civil aircraft Airbuss A321 with 145 passengers onboard that had taken off from Madrid and was bound for Beirut. pic.twitter.com/qwecsgpz0v— IntelSky (@Intel_Sky) August 15, 2022
L'Orient Today reported that sources said the pilot had not identified the aircraft when entering Greek airspace, sparking the interception.
Flight tracker Intel Sky and Greek City Times both claimed that Greek authorities made several attempts to contact the pilot but did not receive a response with two fighter planes deployed to investigate the aircraft.
"Immediately, two F-16 fighter jets took off from the Souda (Crete) base and approached the civilian plane over Argolis," Greek City Times wrote.
"The two fighter jets approached the unresponsive aircraft at around 7:30 p.m. last Wednesday. They were then able to establish radio contact with the pilot and found that there was no problem."
The New Arab cannot independently verify the claims and approached NATO, the Greek Air Force, and the ministry of defence for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication.
MEA did not comment on the incident but pointed to a press release by Lebanon's ministry of public affairs and transport which stated the pilot twice tried to contact aviation authorities when entering Greek airspace.
"In the meantime, a Greek Air Force plane approached the Air Buss (sic) plane to inquire about any emergency, and when the answer was negative, the commander of the Greek warplane saluted the Lebanese plane pilot crew, which continued its normal course," a report on Lebanon's National News Agency reported on the incident.
The airline also did not comment on claims that the pilot was the son of the CEO of MEA.
The aircraft landed safely at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport without further incident and the ministry said it has received no notifications by Greek authorities about the incident.