RAF to fly joint missions with German Air Force as UK prepares to lead NATO air policing in Estonia ~ missions are the first of their kind.
Press Release, Whitehall, 06 March 2023: Royal Air Force and German Air Force Typhoon jets will be flying joint air policing missions in Estonia for the first time, as the UK prepares to lead NATO’s mission in Estonia. These integrated missions will be the first of their kind, with the eventual aim of carrying out full joint and integrated NATO Air Policing missions in the future.
Around 300 RAF personnel from the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) will soon be in Estonia, as the RAF prepares to take the lead on the long-established NATO air policing mission from the German Air Force for four months, starting from April.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Our RAF personnel in Estonia are undertaking a vital role, ensuring the security of Europe’s skies and bolstering NATO’s presence in eastern Europe.
“Joint operations of this kind, demonstrate the strength and unity of the NATO Alliance and our shared resolve to maintain peace and security across the region.”
The EAW will be carrying out the long-established NATO Air Policing mission from Estonia. IX (Bomber) Squadron based at RAF Lossiemouth are operating the RAF Typhoons that have deployed from Scotland.
Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, Commanding Officer of 140 EAW said: “Today marks a great ‘first’ for our two Air Forces. We have been working together for some time and the level of cooperation has now reached a new level. It continues to be an absolute pleasure to work with our German allies on all aspects of our mission – from maintenance and operation of the jets to planning and logistic activities.
“I would also like to thank our Estonian hosts; they are vital to what we have achieved here. What better way to demonstrate the strength and unity of the NATO Alliance, than through successful, shared operations such as this?”
To operate successfully side by side, personnel from the two air forces have trained together to understand each other’s processes including maintenance and operating procedures. Both air forces fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, but there are national differences this is the first time a joint detachment will fully integrate all aspects of operations. Jets will now fly together on live NATO controlled intercepts.
The air policing mission is part of the UK’s wider NATO commitment in Estonia, alongside the presence of around a thousand British soldiers as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. As part of the UK’s deployment to Estonia, established in 2017 under the name Operation CABRIT, the UK leads a multinational, combat-ready battlegroup to protect and reaffirm the security of the alliance’s member states. British units rotate on a continuous basis alongside Danish, French, and host nation Estonian forces.
Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Hachmeister, the German Detachment commander, said: “Working together with our allies from the Royal Air Force in a live mission is what we have been looking forward to since we started this mission. Now we can demonstrate interoperability in these difficult times to protect our Baltic partners and NATO’s eastern flank. The many years of good practice in working together will be the baseline for a successful cooperation.”
The German Air Force detachment is from the 71 Tactical Air Wing ‘Richthofen’. Once they hand over the lead of the NATO Air Policing Mission in April, they will remain in Estonia until the end of the month, conducting integrated scrambles before returning to Germany.