Typhoons and HMS Iron Duke to deploy to the Baltic

The Royal Air Force’s Typhoon FGR.4s  will resume NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission later this month taking over from a Spanish contingent flying their version of the Eurofighter 2000. This will be the second time in less than a year that the RAF has assumed the responsibility on behalf of NATO having carried out the role between May and August 2015.

Typhoon FGR.4 RAFSince March 2004, when the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, fighter aircraft contributed by the alliance’s members have assumed responsibility for securing their airspace since none of the three countries own militaries have an indigenous fighter force. Member states that contribute aircraft operate on a four-month rotation from Lithuania’s First Air Force Base at Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai and the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel. The upcoming RAF deployment will be based at Amari Air Base.

2015 was an especially busy time for the RAF detachment with Lithuanian government figures revealing that intercepts of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea had increased by 14% over 2014. On Friday July 24th alone the RAF Typhoons intercepted ten Russian aircraft. Recently, the Baltic mission made headlines when the Spanish Eurofighter 2000s currently carrying out the mission were videoed intercepting the Russian defence minister’s aircraft over the Baltic which Russian media described as “provocative”.

HMS Iron Duke Type 23 frigate royal navy

HMS Iron Duke F234 (shipspotting.com)

As well as the RAF fighters, the Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke will also be deploying to the Baltic. The frigate is currently conducting a six month northern European deployment and will provide patrol and security duties in the Baltic on behalf of NATO’s Baltic members. According to Forces TV an additional four British warships will operate alongside Iron Duke in the coming months including the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said;

British planes protecting Baltic skies alongside our warship patrols and troops exercising, show how serious we are about the security of our eastern European partners.

 

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NATO warplanes escort Russian defence minister’s plane and fighter escort over Baltic

Footage has appeared on the Russian government funded news channel RT of NATO jets intercepting and escorting the Russian defence minister’s aircraft as it flew over the Baltic. The aircraft were Eurofighter Typhoons and it is likely that these are the Spanish air force examples currently based in Lithuania carrying out NATO’s Baltic air policing mission on behalf of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The defence minister’s aircraft was itself escorted Sukhoi Su-27 “Flankers”.

RT news repeated Russian claims that there was a “build up” of NATO forces in eastern Europe implying that this was a direct threat to Russian security.

 

NATO’s Baltic intercepts of Russian aircraft up by 14% in 2015

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RAF Typhoons escorting Russian MiG-31s (www.raf.mod.uk)

NATO’s on-going Baltic policing mission saw armed combat fighters launch 160 “live” intercepts of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea in 2015. According to figures produced by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense this number represents a 14% rise over 2014.

Since March 2004, when the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, fighter aircraft contributed by the alliance’s members have assumed responsibility for securing their airspace since none of the three countries own militaries have an indigenous fighter force. Member states that contribute aircraft operate on a four-month rotation from Lithuania’s First Air Force Base at Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai and the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel.

Between May and August 2015 the Royal Air Force provided four Typhoon FGR.4s for the deployment. On Friday July 24th alone the RAF fighters intercepted ten Russian aircraft over the Baltic.

The Lithuanian Ministry of Defence attributed the increase in intercepts over the Baltic to;

…a heightening of tensions between Moscow and Western countries over Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

 

 

NEWS: British troops to be based in Baltic to curb Russian aggression

Michael FallonBritish Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has revealed that a number of British troops will be stationed in the Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia) as part of a wider mission to deter further Russian aggression in the region. Fallon made the announcement during a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels stating the deployment was intended to reassure former Eastern Bloc members that the NATO alliance will stand by them.

This is further reassurance for our allies on the eastern flank of NATO – for the Baltic states and for Poland.

Fallon outlined that the NATO mission including British troops will primarily revolve around evaluating the current strategic situation and provide training and support to the former Eastern Bloc countries in order to improve their defensive stance. The move is certain to attract criticism in the wake of heightened tension between the Western powers and Moscow following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch airstrikes in Syria which sources in Washington and London have claimed are aimed at supporting Bashar al-Assad’s government rather than defeating Islamic State (IS) as Moscow have claimed.