Lossiemouth jets set for deployment to protect Baltic states

Coningsby-based 3 Sqn Typhoon FGR.4 intercepts a Russin Su-27 fighter during Op AZOTIZE in 2014 (pic: MoD)

Lossiemouth-based Typhoon jets are set for deployment to the Baltic states against a backdrop of continued fighting between Russian-backed rebels and Ukrainian government forces.

As part of NATO’s ongoing commitment to provide Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) intercept capability to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced No.6 Squadron will despatch four Typhoon fighters and support personnel in May.

The Baltic Air Policing Mission was established as none of the three countries operate aircraft which can effectively deter airspace intrusions by neighbouring Russia, or act in contingencies such as rogue airliners and hijackings.

This is the second time that RAF Typhoons have deployed on such a mission, codenamed Operation AZOTIZE, which involved aircraft and crews from RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire in 2014.

Fighters from the USA, Germany, Canada and Norway are just some of the other participants to have taken the role in the past.

Group Captain Graham Pemberton, the Typhoon Force Commander said: “As confirmed by the Secretary of State for Defence, the RAF will deploy four Typhoon aircraft and support personnel to the Baltic this year to provide a vital contribution to NATO’s collective security.

“The Multi-Role Typhoon aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth will provide Air Policing of NATO’s eastern flank – this will be a very similar role to the highly successful Baltic Air Policing mission carried out during 2014.”

Speaking at the NATO Defence Minister’s meeting in Brussels yesterday, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon also confirmed that the UK will be the lead nation in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in 2017 and then on rotation thereafter.

The VJTF is a high readiness, multinational force which will act as a ‘spearhead force’, forming NATO’s first response in the face of aggression. Mr Fallon said: “The Readiness Action Plan demonstrates the Alliance’s commitment to reinforce our collective defence but strong words must be backed up with firm action.

“That is why I am delighted to announce that the UK will lead the VJTF in 2017 and contribute to the Baltic Air Policing mission again in order to put the Plan into practice.”

insideMoray readers will remember that Lossiemouth’s 6 Squadron was in the news last week following another widely-publicised ‘probing’ of UK air defences by two Russian Air Force Tu-95 BEAR bombers.

The Lossiemouth jets took over escort of the Russians from Norwegian F-16 fighters as they routed around the north of Scotland and down the west coast of Ireland, before handing over to Coningsby-based Typhoons who shadowed the aircraft as far as the English Channel.

Lossiemouth QRA was then scrambled a second time as the BEARs flew a reciprocal route home.