The UK has taken up a leading role policing the skies over the Baltic states to deter threats such as aggression from Russia.
The Defence Secretary has announced today that four Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons, flying from the Amari airbase in Estonia, will join the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission until the end of August.
The jets, alongside pilots and engineers, will be on 24/7 stand by to launch a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in response to any aggression directed from Russia, or others. Two of the four Typhoons will be ready to take off at moment’s notice to provide security to the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
This deployment underlines our commitment to the sovereignty of the democratic nations of Eastern Europe.
24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next four months, our RAF Typhoons will be ready to respond instantly to Russian aggression in Baltic airspace.
This is the third consecutive year the UK has committed to BAP, after rotations in 2014 and 2015. Last time, Typhoon fighters were scrambled 17 times, and intercepted over 40 Russian aircraft. During one launch last July, the Typhoons intercepted 10 separate Russian aircraft, including eight fighters.
Wing Commander Gordon Melville, Commanding Officer of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing RAF, said:
I am very proud to be leading 140 Expeditionary Air Wing as we again provide air policing support to our Estonian NATO allies.
Although we are all far from our families and friends while over here, our hosts have given us a warm welcome and we are looking forward to working with them over the next four months.
BAP is an enduring defensive NATO effort that sees alliance members without their own air policing assets assisted by others in four-monthly cycles. The UK’s key role, which includes operating alongside the Portuguese Air Force, has been welcomed by NATO and its Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Philip Breedlove.
The UK is playing a central role in responding to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. In addition to Baltic Air Policing, we are:
- Training the Ukrainian Armed Forces in countering-IEDs, operations in urban environments, medical care, logistics and operational planning. The UK has also gifted over £1million worth of equipment to the country.
- Making a substantial contribution to NATO Assurance Measures, in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Plans are in place to contribute over 4,000 Armed Forces personnel to assurance activities in 2016, including participation in NATO exercises, and conducting airborne surveillance of NATO’s Eastern Flank by committing an E-3D Sentry aircraft to the NATO Airborne Early Warning and Control Force.
- Provide reassurance and training support to the armed forces of the Baltic States and Poland as part of the US-German Transatlantic Capability Enhancement and Training (TACET) initiative.
- Deploying HMS Iron Duke to the Baltic sea between January and July as part of a multinational NATO task group which includes participation in exercises and operations.
- Contributing five ships including HMS Iron Duke, HMS Ocean and HMS Pembroke to the maritime exercise Baltops 16, in the Baltic Sea.