The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoon fighter jets deployed to Lithuania have intercepted Russian aircraft off the Baltic coast for the second time this week.
The Typhoons were launched on the June 4 afternoon to intercept a Russian Il-20 Coot-A intelligence-gathering aircraft and two Su-27 Flanker B fighter aircraft operating over the Baltic Sea. This was the detachment’s second launch in support of Baltic Air Policing within a 48-hour window with the first one, involving one Il-20 aircraft, occurring on June 2.
A Typhoon pilot from 6 Squadron, attached to 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, was conducting Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) duty when the scramble was called. He said: “This mission was more complex, as there were more aircraft to manage of different types and flying at different speeds. We are always ready to react in support of the NATO mission.”
The Typhoon aircraft were able to approach the Russian formation and identify it as an ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) aircraft escorted by two fighter jets.
“The UK’s commitment to NATO is as strong as ever. Our Typhoon Force is playing a key part in support of the alliance’s air policing operations and our friends in Lithuania,” said Minister for Armed Forces James Heappey.
This intercept is part of the routine NATO Air Policing mission that has been conducted to police the skies since 2004.
“Today saw the second RAF intercept of Russian aircraft over the Baltic. This remains routine activity, however it must be stressed that the RAF as part of NATO are conducting these activities to ensure that all flights are conducted within internationally accepted aviation rules. When this does not happen NATO will intercept and investigate,” said Air Vice Marshal Ian Duguid, the Air Officer Commanding 11 Group.
“I congratulate all of our deployed personnel in Lithuania for the professional way that they are conducting the mission in conjunction with our Lithuanian and Spanish Allies, they bring great credit to the service,” he added.
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing deployment is a defensive mission that sees allies sending planes to patrol the airspace of the three Baltic States, who do not have fighter jets of their own. The Air Policing program keeps fighter jets on alert 24/7 and ready to scramble in case of suspicious air activity close to the Alliance’s borders.
The RAF No. 6 Squadron is carrying out the Baltic Air Policing mission for the summer, along with the Spanish Air Force (Ejercito Del Aire), who has deployed F-18 Hornet fighter jets. The 6 Squadron detachment ware augmented by other personnel from across the RAF to form the 135 Expeditionary Air Wing.
The UK’s contribution to the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission is codenamed Op AZOTIZE.