The Typhoons were deployed in Estonia on Wednesday to intercept two SU-27 fighters and an IL-22 aircraft, before escorting the formation towards Russia. This latest scramble comes just 24 hours after British fighter jets were sent out of a Mari air base in Estonia, again in response to two to two Russian SU-27 fighter aircraft and one IL-22 aircraft that were flying along the Baltic coast heading towards Kaliningrad. The Ministry of Defence confirmed these are the first Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) scrambles since the RAF took over the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the German Air Force last month.
Together it sends a clear message – we are committed to defending NATO’s borders and will support our allies in deterring any threats
The RAF works with its NATO allies to deter Russian aggression and assure partners of the UK’s commitment to collective defence”.
Minister for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster warned the scrambles over European airspace sends a “clear message” to any potential threats.
He said: “At the same time as our troops forge stronger ties with NATO Allies in Estonia, our RAF Typhoons are policing Baltic skies and providing a rapid response to any approaches towards NATO airspace.
“Together it sends a clear message – we are committed to defending NATO’s borders and will support our allies in deterring any threats.”
Wing Commander Paul ‘Pablo’ O’Grady, who was conducting QRA duty when the first scramble was called, maintained the intercepted Russian pilots and crews “behaved in a professional and calm manner with nothing untoward”.
He said: “On May 14, my flight of QRA Typhoons were scrambled on a Baltic Air Policing Mission tasked to intercept and identify an unknown aircraft.
“Six minutes after take-off from Ämari Air Base, vectored by Estonian fighter controllers, we closed quickly on a Russian IL-22 which was being escorted by two Russian SU-27 fighters.
“Flying alongside the Russian aircraft at a safe distance, myself and my wingman (a United States Airforce Lt Col), ensured that the Russian aircraft were safely escorted around Estonian airspace.
“The Russian pilots and crews behaved in a professional and calm manner with nothing untoward.”
Wing Commander O’Grady added: “We subsequently handed the Russian formation over to the Hungarian QRA that had launched out of Lithuania to continue the escort towards Kaliningrad.”
But these are the latest escalations in tensions between Britain and Russia after Royal Navy warship HMS Northumberland was also scrambled on Wednesday to intercept a Russian destroyer sailing through the English Channel.
The Type 23 frigate met Vladimir Putin’s Udaloy-class guided missile destroyer, Severomorsk.
The warship passed through the English Channel as it returned to Russia following operational exercises in the Mediterranean.
Commander and HMS Northumberland captain Ally Pollard described the procedure as “normal business”.
He said: “This has been a particularly intense period for HMS Northumberland.
“It is credit to the team on board that they have been able to switch from the demands of anti-submarine warfare to conduct escorting duties through home waters with such ease.
“This is normal business for the Royal Navy, being prepared at all times to respond to any foreign warships in the UK’s area of interest.”
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