In its first joint NATO Air Policing operation a patrol of two Typhoon fighter jets from both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the German Air Force intercepted a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft that was flying close to Estonian airspace.
The RAF fighter and its German counterpart, operating from Ämari Air Base in Estonia, escorted the Russian Il-78 Midas aircraft on March 14, 2023, after its crew failed to communicate with air traffic control.
The RAF and German Air Force are currently conducting planned Joint NATO Air Policing, a first for the two NATO Allies. The interception, however, is seen as “routine business”.
The RAF Typhoon came from the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), which is preparing to lead NATO air policing in Estonia from April 2023.
“We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace,” said an unnamed Typhoon pilot speaking on behalf of the RAF. “Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users.”
He added: “As a fighter pilot this was a routine business, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It is clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together.”
The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation Azotize in Estonia to conduct the long-established NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.
During March 2023, the mission is being led by the German Air Force, before handing over to the RAF and then joint missions will continue until the end of April.
The UK Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, 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.”