March 18, 2023 Russia-Ukraine News
British and German fighter jets intercepted a Russian plane flying close to Estonian airspace on Friday, according to a statement from Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF).
It was the second such meeting this week as NATO conducts joint air policing efforts in the region.
The two Typhoon aircraft intercepted “a Russian Tu-134 military passenger plane, known as the NATO Crusty, which was escorted by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighter jets and an AN-12 Cub military transport plane “, said the RAF. .
Such an interception is not unusual for NATO aircraft, but the joint air policing mission is a first for two NATO allies, the statement said.
The RAF described the operation as an assurance that the UK, Germany and other NATO nations “stand with their Estonian ally at this time of tension”.
“We quickly identified the Russian aircraft and then monitored it as it flew close to NATO airspace,” Richard Leask, an RAF commander, said in the statement.
Air policing missions help NATO identify any aircraft of interest, “make sure we know who they are” and keep everyone safe in the airspace, Leask continued.
“It’s part of being a fighter pilot and it’s what we and our German colleagues trained together to be able to do,” the commander said.
The RAF is deployed in Estonia as part of Operation Azotize, which is tasked with defending against any aircraft that cause concern in Baltic airspace, according to the military statement. The UK will take over from the German detachment in April, and joint missions between the allies will continue to be carried out until the end of this month.
The two interceptions involving NATO aircraft this week come after stunning aerial video emerged showing a Russian plane buzzing and then apparently hitting a US drone over the Black Sea. The downing of the drone highlighted the risk of a direct clash between Russian and NATO assets during Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine.