RAF and German air force intercept stray Russian aircraft in first joint Nato mission

Air policing missions. Credit: PA

The RAF and German air force intercepted a Russian aircraft straying close to Estonian airspace in the first joint routine mission of its kind.

A pair of British and German Typhoon jets reacted to a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft, after it failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control on Tuesday.

This was the first joint Nato air policing scramble as British pilots begin missions in the country alongside the German air force.

It comes as the UK prepares take over from Germany to lead the Nato mission in Estonia, which borders Russia.

The Ministry of Defence stressed the “routine” nature of the mission, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

Armed forces minister 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.”

Defence minister James Heappey. Credit: PA

A Typhoon pilot from the RAF’s IX(Bomber) Squadron, who was not named by the Ministry of Defence, 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.”

Commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, said it had been “great” to see UK and German forces “operate as one team”.

The military mission comes as, for the first time since the height of the Cold War, a US aircraft was brought down after an encounter with a Russian warplane.

On Tuesday a Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea.

The US called it a “brazen violation of international law” and caused the American forces to bring down the unmanned aerial vehicle, deepening the tensions between Russia and the US..

Moscow said the US drone manoeuvred sharply and crashed into water following an encounter with Russian fighter jets called out to intercept it near Crimea, but insisted its warplanes did not fire their weapons or hit the drone.

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