On March 14, UK and German Typhoon fighters were sent to intercept a Russian plane in the vicinity of Estonian airspace in their first joint NATO Air Policing mission.
During this operation, a pair of Typhoon jets were dispatched to intercept an Il-78 Midas refueling plane that was flying between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The IL78 Midas had failed to establish communication with air traffic control in Estonia, which prompted the interception operation. Following a successful visual identification and escort of the IL78 Midas, the two Typhoons were then re-tasked to intercept an AN148 airliner that was passing through Estonian airspace.
The Royal Air Force and German Air Force are undertaking a planned joint NATO Air Policing operation, which marks the first time that the two NATO allies have conducted such a mission together. Although the interception is considered a routine NATO operation for the Typhoons, it serves to demonstrate NATO’s solidarity with Estonia, and underscores the UK and Germany’s commitment, alongside other NATO allies, to stand with Estonia during this time of heightened tension.
James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces said: “Nato continues to form the bedrock of our collective security. This joint UK and German deployment in the Baltics clearly demonstrates our collective resolve to challenge any potential threat to Nato’s borders, whilst demonstrating our combined strength.”
The commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Scott Maccoll said: “It was great to see the UK and German elements operate as one team. As NATO continually adapts its structures and workforce, today shows us the next evolution.”
The UK and Germany are collaborating as the UK prepares to lead NATO’s mission in Estonia. These integrated missions are the first of their kind, with the eventual aim of carrying out full joint and integrated NATO Air Policing missions in the future.
Around 300 RAF personnel from the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) will soon be in Estonia, as the RAF prepares to take the lead on the long-established NATO air policing mission from the German Air Force for four months, starting from April.