RAF and German air force intercept Russian aircraft in routine policing mission

Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft was flying close to Estonian airspace

A Typhoon takes off from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, England. PA
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The RAF and German air force carried out their first joint Nato air policing scramble as pilots performed a routine interception of a Russian aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace.

On Tuesday the two British and German Typhoon jets reacted to a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft, after it failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control.

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

The UK is preparing to take over from Germany to lead the Nato mission in Estonia, which borders Russia.

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

“Nato continues to form the bedrock of our collective security," Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said.

“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.”

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A Typhoon pilot from the RAF’s IX Squadron 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 tension 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 said it led the American troops to take the drone down.

Moscow said the US drone manoeuvred sharply and crashed into water after an encounter with Russian fighter jets seeking 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.

Updated: March 15, 2023, 5:00 AM