A ceremony has taken place at Amari Air Base in Estonia, as the RAF passes on responsibility for the policing of Baltic airspace to the German Air Force.
UK Typhoon fighters have been deployed since April on their third four-month rotation in the Baltic Air Policing Mission, the mission that sees a number of NATO countries taking turns to protect the Baltic skies against the threat of any agression.
According to a press release, over this latest rotation, the Typhoons have been scrambled 21 times to intercept 42 separate aircraft, with the most recent coming in the last few days of the mission, this being the interception of a Russian IL-20 Transport Aircraft, NATO codename Coot-A.
The deployment formed part of Operation AZOTIZE and were part of a broader force augmenting Portuguese Air Force F16 fighters operating out of Lithuania.
Air Commodore Ian Duguid, the RAF’s Typhoon Force Commander was present for the Handover Ceremony, he offerred:
“With 21 operational scrambles and 42 aircraft intercepted, the RAF’s Typhoon Force has yet again demonstrated its ability to protect NATO’s eastern flank. I wish to thank our Estonian hosts, together with their Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues, for providing the essential support to make this rotation a success once again.
II (Army Cooperation) Sqn, from RAF Lossiemouth working as part of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW), have spent the past 4 months with their Typhoon FGR4 aircraft on permanent readiness to scramble in the event of any aircraft approaching NATO airspace that are not conforming to international flight protocols.
During this deployment, the pilots and engineers of II(AC) Sqn worked professionally to maintain the high state of alert 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Communications, logistics and administrative support was provided by RAF personnel from a broad cross section of RAF stations including: Lossiemouth, Marham, RAF Wittering, Leeming and Honington.”
Wing Commander Roger Elliot, Officer Commanding of II(AC) Sqn said:
“No. II(AC) Sqn has just completed its first air defence operation in 104 years of history. To secure the Baltic skies, our pilots responded to the call 24/7, however, this was only possible due to the continuous hard work of the Squadron’s engineers. I congratulate every member of ‘Shiney Two’ for their tremendous performance here in Estonia.”
Wg Cdr Gordon Melville, Commanding Officer of 140 EAW said:
“The professionalism of every member of 140 EAW has been awe-inspiring. Despite a relatively junior team, some experiencing their first overseas operation, everyone has pulled together and worked hard to support each other and achieve excellent results on this strategically important mission. I have been humbled to command such a fine team and congratulate every single member on a job well done.”
Since the end of April 2016, NATO’s Baltic Air Policing has been provided by four RAF Typhoons based at Ämari in Estonia supporting Portuguese F-16s operating from Šiauliai in Lithuania.