Royal Air Force fighter aircraft have begun a four-month NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic region after replacing their German colleagues.
Typhoons from XI(F) Squadron normally based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire began their NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Ämari Airbase in Estonia on the 3rd May after replacing the German Eurofighters flown by the Tactical Fighter Wing 71 “Richthofen” (Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 “Richthofen”) of the Luftwaffe.
Representing the RAF at the Handover Ceremony, Air Vice Marshal Ian Duguid, Air Officer Commanding Number 11 Group said:
“We have been working very closely with the German Air Force during our preparation and have shared both ideas and experience. They have done an excellent job over the last eight months and we will draw upon their support and our own extensive experience as we begin our own mission.”
“Our NATO allies can be reassured that the UK’s commitment to the Alliance remains as steadfast as ever.
“They have provided outstanding support and have been incredibly generous, and the Royal Air Force looks forward to working together with them over the next four months”, said Air Vice Marshal Ian Duguid , Air Officer Commanding Number 11 Group.
The Officer Commanding XI(F), Wing Commander Paul O’Grady, said: “It has been a fantastic ten days since our arrival as we’ve used the handover period to prepare for QRA duties. We’ve got a lot to learn from our German colleagues and our two air forces are working closer and closer together. For example, we have two Luftwaffe pilots just starting on exchange at RAF Coningsby on the Typhoon Force.”
“We’ve been doing a lot of work to see how we could work more closely in the future. We have the same aircraft but there are some small differences about how we do business and we’re trying to bring it closer together so that maybe in the future we could have RAF and Luftwaffe Typhoons side by side on QRA”, said Wing Commander Paul O’Grady, Officer Commanding XI(F).
Following their arrival in Estonia on 24 April, the RAF Typhoon crews have been working with their German counterparts to prepare themselves for the NATO mission of providing a Quick Reaction Alert capability off the Baltic Sea area around Estonia. On 2 May the responsibility for QRA was officially handed over to the RAF by the Luftwaffe at a ceremony.
The Commander of the German Detachment, Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian Fiedler said: “After eight months in charge, the German Air Force will leave Ämari Air Base and we will hand over the mission to our British friends.
“We are very grateful for the friendship we experienced and the excellent support by our Host Nation Estonia. We are looking forward to coming back for securing the NATO skies in the Baltic region again in close partnership with all other NATO members.”
He added: “We had a very professional handover period with our colleagues from the RAF and already flew the first sorties, mixing German and British Eurofighters. These provide the basis for possible combined air policing mission in the future.
“We are very much looking forward to being a part of this. The training flights we conducted have not only been a very good exercise for our pilots but also for the ground crews and the different units within our detachments to work together closely”, said Lieutenant Colonel Sebastian Fiedler, Commander of the German Detachment.