After nearly four months operating out of Estonia on behalf of NATO’s Baltic air policing mission the pilots, groundcrew and aircraft of the RAF’s 121 Expeditionary Air Wing have stood down and began the process of returning to the UK. The mission has now been assumed by the German Luftwaffe’s 31st Tactical Air Wing which operates the German version of the Eurofighter Typhoon. The transfer of duties was carried out at a special ceremony on Tuesday attended by the British ambassador to Estonia, Chris Holtby.
This deployment was the third time the Royal Air Force has undertaken the duty on behalf of NATO since October 2004 when a flight of Tornado F.3s were deployed to the region however this has certainly been the busiest. Since arriving in May of this year the Typhoons have undertaken 17 live scrambles recording a total of 40 individual Russian aircraft operating near Estonian air space as Moscow becomes ever more hostile to the west over the situation in the Ukraine. On one day alone ten aircraft from across the Baltic found themselves shadowed by a heavily armed RAF fighter.
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas took to Twitter to thank the RAF detachment by tweeting;
Thank you, job well done!