RAF and German air force intercept Russian aircraft in ‘routine’ Nato mission

The Ministry of Defence stressed the ‘routine’ nature of the response, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia.

Dominic McGrath,Matt Mathers
Wednesday 15 March 2023 05:00 GMT
A Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in Linconshire (Joe Giddens/PA)
A Typhoon taking off from RAF Coningsby in Linconshire (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

The RAF and German air force carried out their first joint Nato air policing scramble as pilots carried out a routine interception of a Russian aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace.

The response on Tuesday saw the pair of British and German Typhoon jets react to a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft, after it failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control.

British pilots are currently conducting joint air policing missions in the country alongside the German air force for the first time.

It comes as the UK prepares take over from Germany to lead the Nato mission in Estonia, which borders Russia.

The Ministry of Defence stressed the “routine” nature of the mission, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “Nato continues to form the bedrock of our collective security.

“This joint UK and German deployment in the Baltics clearly demonstrates our collective resolve to challenge any potential threat to Nato’s borders, whilst demonstrating our combined strength.”

A Typhoon pilot from the RAF’s IX(Bomber) Squadron, who was not named by the Ministry of Defence, 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.

“Any aircraft that are 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 all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together.”

Commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, said it had been “great” to see UK and German forces “operate as one team”.

Details of the mission came amid a fresh reminder of the depth of tensions between Russia and the US, after a Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea.

The US called it a “brazen violation of international law” and caused the American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle.

Moscow said the US drone manoeuvred sharply and crashed into water following an encounter with Russian fighter jets scrambled to intercept it near Crimea, but insisted its warplanes did not fire their weapons or hit the drone.

The incident appeared to mark the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US aircraft was brought down after an encounter with a Russian warplane.

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