ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports from Brize Norton
It’s 3:30 in the morning and at RAF Brize Norton we join a Voyager aircraft as it prepares to take off for a rendezvous over Germany. Refuelling pods are slung beneath the wings.A couple of hours after take-off, two more aircraft appear from the darkness. A pair of Typhoon fighters from RAF Coningsby have joined the mission.Soon after dawn, it is time to top up the tanks. The aircraft are just northwest of Hamburg, 27,000 feet up and travelling at 400mph. The Typhoons take onboard three tonnes of fuel each, before departing on the first leg of their mission.
Their task is an Enhanced Vigilance Patrol along the Polish-Russian border. It’s a policing mission and they are armed with air-to-air missiles, but the main aim is to see, and be seen by, the Russian forces just across the frontier.The Voyager takes up a holding pattern northwest of Warsaw while the Typhoons patrol the border. Over the course of the morning they return twice more for refuelling, the presence of the Voyager allows a much longer patrolling time.
These are long flights for all of the crew and as Nato steps up the patrols along the Russian border in response to the invasion of Ukraine, they are flying more of them. And no one can tell how long they will go on for.