Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4s from the Royal Air Force’s No.3 (Fighter) Squadron based at RAF Coningsby have now deployed to Romania as part of the expansion of NATO’s air policing mission over Eastern Europe. Four aircraft and up to 150 personnel (air and ground crew) deployed to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in south east Romania on Monday with the deployment expected to last up to four months. After a period of acclimation, the aircraft are reported to formally start operations by May 1st.
Images taken of the pilots taking off from Coningsby show that they are using the new £250,000 Striker II helmet which according to BAE Systems’ own website;
Striker II is a fully digital solution that provides today’s combat pilot with exceptional night vision and target tracking technology within a fully integrated visor-projected HMD system.
BAE Systems’ Striker helmet-mounted display system is based on the company’s unique two-part helmet design. It provides comfort, protection, and helmet stability for fixed- and rotary-wing platforms.
The RAF has had a long history patrolling NATO’s border with Russia having led four deployments of fighter aircraft as part of the alliance’s Baltic air policing mission since 2004. In those instances the aircraft have largely been the sole air defence asset for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. However, Romania has its own fighter force built around the MiG-21 LanceR – an upgraded version of the legendary but increasingly ageing MiG-21 “Fishbed”. The far more modern RAF aircraft will have to integrate in to Romania’s air defence network.
The deployment is part of NATO’s expanded effort to reassure its eastern members that it remains committed to their protection. It has also been reported in the Romanian press that the deployment of NATO fighters to their country is in direct response to a dramatic increase in the number of interceptions carried out by the Romanian Air Force of Russian aircraft over the Black Sea in recent months.
Romania will also host a large scale NATO exercise in July that U.S. Ambassador Hans Klemm said in March would include up to 30,000 NATO troops.