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Op AZOTIZE ~ Joint NATO Air Policing Scramble

German Air Force Typhoon intercepts Russian Ilyushin-78 (Midas) aerial refueller nearing Estonian air space [UK MoD press release image]

RAF and German Air Force Typhoons from Ämari intercept Russian aircraft near Estonian airspace in first joint NATO air policing scramble.

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Press Release, Whitehall, March 15 2023: A Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet operating from Ämari Air Base in Estonia has carried out the first joint NATO Air Policing interception alongside a German Air Force Typhoon. The pair of jets launched on Tuesday, 14 March to intercept a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft that was flying close to Estonian airspace.

The pair of Typhoon jets were scrambled to escort the IL78 Midas, which was flying between St Petersburg and Kaliningrad, after it failed to communicate with air traffic control in Estonia. Following a successful visual identification and escort, the pair of Typhoons were re-tasked to intercept an AN148 airliner, also passing Estonian airspace.

The RAF and German Air Force are conducting planned Joint NATO Air Policing, a first for the two NATO Allies. The interception is however a routine NATO mission for the Typhoons which provides reassurance that the UK and Germany together with other NATO allies stand with their Estonian ally at this time of tension.

Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, said: “NATO continues to form the bedrock of our collective security. This joint UK 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.”

A Typhoon pilot from IX (Bomber) Squadron, operating as part of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, together with a German colleague were on standby on Quick Reaction Alert duty when the scramble was called. He said: “We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace.

“Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users. As a fighter pilot this was a routine business, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It is clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together.”

The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation AZOTIZE in Estonia to conduct the long-established NATO Baltic Air Policing mission. During March the mission is being led by the German Air Force, before handing over to the RAF. Joint missions will be flow till the end of April.

The commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll said: “It was great to see the UK and German elements operate as one team. As NATO continually adapts its structures and workforce, today shows us the next evolution.”

The UK and Germany are operating together as part of NATO to reassure our allies and is a further demonstration of the UK and Germany’s commitment to the security of the region. The German Air Force detachment is from the 71 Tactical Air Wing ‘Richthofen’

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