Here’s what it looks like to be intercepted by RAF Typhoons deployed to Estonia for NATO Baltic Air Policing.
Last week our fellow photographer, Michał Prokurat, had an opportunity to participate in a COMLOSS sortie over the Baltic states, with involvement of the RAF Typhoons.
The journalists were boarded on a Lithuanian Air Force C-27J that simulated a loss of communications with the ATC over Estonia. Then, the RAF Typhoons stationed at the Amari AB in Estonia were scrambled to intercept the Lithuanian Spartan and escort it back to Siaullai. The media event organized by NATO aircom has given the journalists a chance to capture the British jets in action.
Baltic Air Policing is a NATO operation whose purpose is to safeguard NATO airspace over the Baltic States.
The weekend two weeks ago (Friday Jun. 14 and Saturday Jun. 15) was especially intense. On Friday the RAF Typhoons were launched in the air to intercept a Russian Su-30. On Jun. 15. a Su-30 and an Il-76 were intercepted by the RAF assets. As the official RAF release reads, during both intercepts, the aircraft were flown at a safe distance and operated in a professional manner throughout.
The RAF’s support of the NATO Baltic Air Policing is known as Operation AZOTIZE. The British have also more than 800 personnel of the British Army present in the region, leading the NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia and Poland. Furthermore, two thousand troops are going to be involved in the maritime Baltic Protector exercise later this summer, in support of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF).
Thanks go to the NATO Air Command for giving us a heads up concerning the event and to the Lithuanian Air Force for giving our fellow photographer a chance to participate.
Update Jul. 1, 09.00 GMT:
A previous version of this story, said that “Baltic Air Policing is a NATO operation aimed at bolstering the air defence potential in the Baltic region.” An Allied Air Command spokesperson has asked us to amend the story since “NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission, whereas Air Defence is conducted in crisis and wartime. The purpose of Air Policing is to safeguard NATO airspace over all European Allies. The special arrangement for the Baltics underpins Allied solidarity, interoperability and air capabilities.”
This is interesting because Air Defense is a standard term used by many NATO air arms (including the Polish and Italian Air Force) to refer to their peacetime surveillance of the nation’s sovereign air space.