UK and Germany conduct NATO’s first joint Baltic Air Policing interception

Eurofighter Typhoons from the RAF and Luftwaffe have been scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft off the coast of Estonia in the first ever dual force operation as part of Operation Azitoze.

Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-78 Midas tanker RF-94270 (32 blue)
Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-78 Midas tanker RF-94270 (32 blue) Crown Copywrite

On March 14, a Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 from RAF Lossiemouth-based IX(B) Squadron and a Eurofighter EF-2000 from Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader (TLG71) based at Wittmund intercepted two separate Russian military aircraft over the Baltic. Initially, the pair were scrambled to shadow an Ilyushin Il-78 Midas refuelling aircraft before they were re-tasked to intercept an Antonov An-148-100EA (RA-61734). This aircraft was travelling from the Russian Naval Base Chkalovsk, located within the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, to Chkalovskiy, located northeast of Moscow. It is believed this aircraft belongs to the 354th Special Purpose Aviation Regiment/8th Special Purpose Air Division, which is based at the latter airfield.

A pair of Typhoons (ZK359 from the RAF and 3144 of the Luftwaffe) on the runway at Amari in Estonia
A pair of Typhoons (ZK359 from the RAF and 3144 of the Luftwaffe) on the runway at Amari in Estonia Crown Copywrite

 While both the RAF and the Luftwaffe have taken part in several NATO Air Policing missions, this is a first for two NATO allies to participate in a Quick Reaction Alert together as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.

Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Antonov AN-148-100EA RA-61734
Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Antonov AN-148-100EA RA-61734 Crown Copywrite

A Typhoon pilot from IX Squadron, part of the deployed 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, said, "We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace; we identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace." He continued, "Any aircraft 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. As a fighter pilot, this was a routine business, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It is clear that our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together."

Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Antonov AN-148-100EA RA-61734
Luftwaffe EF-2000, 3144 shadows Russian Air Force Antonov AN-148-100EA RA-61734 Crown Copywrite

 The Royal Air Force is deployed to Amari in Estonia as part of Operation Azitoze, the UK’s commitment to NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission. The Luftwaffe will be the lead nation throughout March before handing over control to the RAF at the start of April. Joint missions will continue through April before the German contingent heads home. Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, the RAF's 140 Expeditionary Air Wing commander, 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." Ben Stanley Hall