During the first week of August Eurofighter Typhoons intercepted a number of Russian aircraft, including five in two days. The intercepts took place in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, but close to the airspaces of Estonia and Lithuania. Russian aircraft often fly close to the coast as they transit to Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave that lies on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania. An Ilyushin Il-76 transport had been intercepted on July 31.
On Monday August 5, Typhoons launched from Amari in Estonia initially to intercept, identify and shadow an Antonov An-26 “Curl” medium transport. While airborne, the fighters were then tasked with intercepting three further aircraft, a Tupolev Tu-142 “Bear-F” long-range maritime patroller and two Sukhoi Su-27 fighters.
A Typhoon pilot from No. XI Squadron reported that: “We were scrambled to intercept a Russian An-26 aircraft routing west close to Estonian airspace. Once complete with this task, a second task was initiated to intercept a group of contacts operating to the south close to Lithuanian airspace. These aircraft transiting the Baltic region were not on a recognized flight plan or communicating with air traffic control. In the end, the intercept was uneventful and conducted in a professional manner throughout.”
On the following day, Typhoons were launched again, this time to investigate a Tupolev Tu-134 “Crusty.” The modified airliner was one of the aircraft that was adapted with an extended nose housing radar and onboard systems as Tu-134BSh and Tu-134UBL versions to train Tu-22M and Tu-160 bomber crews. Some of these aircraft have been de-modified and are used as passenger transports, but retain the long nose. The aircraft encountered bore Russian naval aviation titles.
The latest scrambles brought the number of aircraft intercepted by No. XI Squadron since it took over the Baltic extended Air Policing (eAP) role on May 3 to 16. The RAF’s mission is known as Operation Azotize. For the previous eight months, German Typhoons had held responsibility for the Amari detachment.
The Amari operation was begun in May 2014 in the light of increasing tensions with Russia and the need for NATO to increase its Baltic Air Policing commitments, which began in 2004 with rotational deployments of interceptors from NATO air forces to Siauliai airbase in Lithuania. During 2014/15 fighters were also deployed to Malbork in Poland. The Siauliai detachment is currently manned by Spanish EF-18 Hornets and Hungarian JAS 39C Gripens.
RAF participation began with Tornado F.Mk 3s in 2004, while Typhoons made their first deployment to Siauliai in 2014, and to Amari in 2015.
Update: On August 9 RAF Typhoons from Amari intercepted another Tu-142, accompanied by two Su-30SM fighters, while Typhoons based at Lossiemouth in Scotland intercepted another pair of Tu-142s