British, German jets combine to escort Russian plane near Estonian airspace
Fighter jets from Britain's Royal Air Force and Germany's Luftwaffe joined forces Tuesday, when they scrambled to intercept a Russian Federation plane flying close to Estonian air space, the BBC reports.
While the operation in and of itself was routine, it was the first of its kind and saw the Luftwaffe and the RAF come together, history notwithstanding, as two jets, one from each air force, intercepted an Il-78 Midas refueling plane flying between St Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
Both countries' air forces make use of Eurofighter Typhoons, and fly from the home of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission from Ämari Air Base, west of Tallinn.
While tensions have been heightened since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, starting in February 2022, the BBC reports there was no evidence of a link between the incident and the reported collision between a a Russian fighter jet and a US drone over the Black Sea Tuesday, the BBC says.
The RAF recently deployed four Typhoons to Ämari, augmenting the German jets already there, while the latter will depart next month, leaving the RAF to take the lead role – as they have held in the past – for a four-month stint.
Britain's armed forces minister James Heappey said: "NATO continues to form the bedrock of our collective security. This joint U.K. 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."
Tuesday's incident close to Estonian air space saw the regular pattern of failure on the part of the Russian plane to communicate with air traffic control in Estonia, while once they had escorted the Midas, the two planes were tasked with intercepting a Russian An-148 airliner, that was also passing close to Estonian airspace.
The jets are part of the RAF's 140 Expeditionary Air Wing and the German 71 Tactical Air Wing Richthofen.
Russian military and transport planes often "cut the corner" when flying between the Kaliningrad exclave and the Russian "mainland", flying close to, an occasionally inside, Estonian air space.
The NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission also sees member states contribute at the base at Šiauliai, Lithuania.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte