Jun 26, 2023
Royal Air Force Typhoon fighters providing Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) aircraft for the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia have been scrambled to respond to Russian aircraft 21 times in the last 21 days.
The Typhoons, from RAF Lossiemouth-based number 1 (Fighter) Squadron, have been operating out of Amari Air Base since March as part of the UK’s leading contribution to NATO.
When the jets and crew conduct Quick Reaction Alert activity, they maintain a constant high readiness to ensure they can get airborne at a moment’s notice.
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Baltic air policing is currently delivered by the RAF, based in Estonia, alongside the Portuguese and Romanian Air Forces based in Lithuania.
The last three weeks have been especially busy and have resulted in the RAF intercepting 21 Russian aircraft in 21 days. These have included fighter aircraft (Su-27M FLANKER B, Su-30SM FLANKER H), VIP and other transport aircraft (Tu-134 CRUSTY, An-72 COALER, An-12 CUB), intelligence collection aircraft (Il-20 COOT A) and long-range bombers (Tu-22M BACKFIRE).
The RAF Typhoons launch to monitor the Russian aircraft when they do not talk to air traffic agencies, making them a flight safety hazard.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
"These intercepts are a stark reminder of the value of collective defence and deterrence provided by NATO. The RAF has operated alongside our allies over the last three weeks to ensure both member states and our partner nations are protected, and they can be assured of our ongoing commitment to strengthening European security alongside those who share our values."
The Typhoon Squadron is supported by 100 RAF personnel deployed as part of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), which enables the flying activities of the squadron.
While deployed to Estonia, the RAF has also taken part in a number of major exercises with NATO allies, including Exercise Air Defender, the largest NATO Air Deployment exercise since the end of the Cold War, with more than 250 aircraft and 10,000 personnel taking part from 25 nations. The RAF contribution to the exercise combined Typhoons from 140 EAW based in Estonia and 903 EAW based in Cyprus, and included F-35, Voyager and A-400M aircraft flying from the UK.
140 EAW’s Commanding Officer Wing Commander Scott Maccoll:
"The number of recent intercepts that we have conducted from Amari Airbase in Estonia demonstrates the importance that our mission serves here in the Baltics. Throughout our NATO Air Policing Mission, 140 EAW has acted decisively and legitimately to uphold international law, protect democratic freedoms, and ensure the safety of all aircraft transiting throughout the airspace of member states. Working closely with our NATO allies has also improved interoperability across the alliance and bolstered regional security on NATO’s eastern flank."
The NATO Baltic Air Policing mission was established at Amari base in Estonia and Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania in 2014 after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Allies who contribute to the mission deploy to the air bases in Eastern Europe on a four month rotational basis, providing protection and assurance to all NATO members as well as partner nations.
The RAF will continue to conduct NATO’s Air Policing Mission in Estonia with 1 (F) Sqn Typhoons until August, when they will hand over to the Spanish Air Force.