Two Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons were scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft in eastern European NATO airspace in early May, as a multinational NATO exercise to prepare allies against potential threats takes place in Estonia.

Exercise Steadfast Javelin has seen 13,000 NATO troops from Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the USA simulate defensive measures against air and land attacks since it began on 4 May – testing the full staging of permanent readiness troops and additional staging of rapid response reserve units that NATO is supporting in its effort to protect eastern Europe against the threat from Russia.

While this was under way, two of four RAF Typhoons assigned to the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission and stationed at Amari AFB in Estonia were scrambled to intercept what is understood to have been a Russian military surveillance variant of an Ilyushin IL-20 Coot aircraft.

The BAP mission has seen four Typhoons based at Amari since 1 May in support of the eastern nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania that do not have inventories of offensive aircraft.

Four Norwegian Lockheed Martin F-16AMs are leading the mission from Šiauliai air base in Lithuania supported by four Italian air force Typhoons, while the Belgian air force has stationed four of its F-16s at Malbork in Poland.

RAF Typhoon Tornado - Crown Copyright

Crown Copyright

Steadfast Javelin, meanwhile, has seen the UK provide 120 soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment to the exercise, while 55 RAF personnel with two BAE Systems Hawk jets are providing air support alongside US Air Force Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.

British soldiers are playing the part of attacking forces, partnered with a similar-sized US Army unit, and are working as part of an Estonian infantry brigade, the UK Ministry of Defence says.

“Air interceptions like this underline the vital importance of the UK’s contribution to the Baltic Air Policing mission,” Michael Fallon, UK defence minister, says.

“The UK’s role in the protection of NATO airspace, and the involvement of our personnel in the Estonian exercise currently taking place, demonstrates our commitment to NATO’s collective defence and the value of our armed forces’ expertise in improving the military capabilities of our allies.”