On Thursday evening (8 June), RAF Typhoons based at Amari airbase in Estonia and Swedish Air Force Gripens were scrambled to intercept a Russian Air Force IL-20 ‘COOT’ A and Su-27 ‘FLANKER’ B flying close to NATO and Swedish airspace.
The Russian aircraft were not complying with international norms by failing to communicate with the relevant Flight Information Regions (FIRs), however they remained in international airspace and flew in a professional manner.
Typhoons were again scrambled on Friday morning (9 June) to intercept one AN12 ‘CUB’ and one AN72 ‘COALER’ flying south from mainland Russia towards the Kaliningrad Oblast. The RAF fighters were later re-tasked to intercept two Tupolev Tu-22M ‘BACKFIRES’ and two Su-30 SM FLANKER H, also flying south from mainland Russia over the Gulf of Finland and the Baltic Sea. The Russian aircraft were once again not complying with international norms by failing to liaise appropriately with local FIRs.
The Typhoons were joined by F18s of the Finnish Air Force as they escorted the BACKFIRES and FLANKER through the Gulf of Finland, later handing over to Gripens of the Swedish Air Force. Portuguese and Romanian F16s, based out of Siauliai Airbase in Lithuania, were also scrambled to escort the Russian aircraft as they transited further south through the Latvian and Lithuanian FIRs.
The Defence Secretary, Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, said:
These intercepts are a stark reminder that the RAF is always ready to defend our skies and those of our allies, while the coordinated action by several air forces serves as a clear demonstration of the value of our international alliances.
A pilot involved with the scramble said:
These intercepts highlight the speed at which we can get airborne to intercept unidentified aircraft. The Typhoon is the perfect platform to conduct these intercepts with its incredible speed, manoeuvrability, and modern onboard systems.” He added, “although there is an apparent increase in regional activity, these intercepts remain normal jogging for us and we are ready to respond to any task that may pose a threat to regional security.
NATO is currently conducting naval activity in the Baltic Sea as part of BALTOPs and, as expected, Russian aircraft have been monitoring allied vessels throughout. The RAF’s 140 EAW are currently deployed to Amari Airbase in Estonia to undertake NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission.
CO 140 EAW, Wg Cdr Maccoll said:
This is a busy period yet these intercepts remain routine business for us. Our ability to scramble and intercept multiple Russian jets on separate occasions, within a short period of time, is testament to our resilience and flexibility.” He added, “140 EAW, NATO and our future ally, Sweden, have further showcased their ability to perform multinational intercepts in a professional and seamless manner. Our commitment to defend the region and secure the skies over the Baltics remains steadfast and we will act with speed and decisiveness to counter any potential adversary.
The RAF will continue to conduct NATO’s Air Policing Mission in Estonia with 1 (F) Sqn Typhoons until August, when they will hand over to the Spanish Air Force.