UK defence secretary Michael Fallon has agreed to commit Eurofighter Typhoons to NATO’s southern Europe air policing mission, with the type to be deployed to Romania in 2017.
The deployment of the RAF Coningsby-based aircraft to Mihail Kogălniceanu air base for up to four months comes “in the face of a more assertive Russia”, the Ministry of Defence says, and is intended to provide reassurance to the UK’s allies in the Black Sea region.
“This deployment of air, land and sea forces shows that we will continue to play a leading role in NATO, supporting the defence and security of our allies from the north to the south of the Alliance,” Fallon says.
A Typhoon escorts a Russian Tupolev Tu-95 near UK airspace
The new commitment follows the involvement of RAF Typhoons in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission to protect Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This has seen the type deployed a number of times to bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland over four-month periods to monitor aircraft approaching or entering NATO airspace without authorisation.
The RAF has been involved in the BAP mission in consecutive years from 2014. Its last involvement saw it base Typhoons at Amari air base in Estonia, during a deployment that concluded in August 2016.
The decision to support the new Black Sea mission comes three months after the UK decided to provide one of four battalions to NATO’s so-called Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic area and Poland, alongside Denmark and France. In addition to land vehicles, this is to include tactical unmanned air vehicles, and deployments will begin in May 2017.