LONDON: Amid growing fears of a confrontation in the skies over Russia and Ukraine, the UK defense ministry announced on Wednesday that fighter jets from the British and German air forces had been dispatched to intercept a Russian aircraft flying close to Estonian airspace.
As part of NATO’s efforts to bolster its eastern flank in response to Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany are conducting joint air policing missions in Estonia.
When a Russian air-to-air refueling plane lost contact with Estonian air traffic control on Tuesday, British Typhoon fighter jets swooped in to help, according to the country’s defense ministry. The Russian plane avoided entering NATO member Estonia’s airspace.
As part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, British and German planes will continue their joint patrols until the end of April.
“It was great to see the UK and German elements operate as one team,” said Wing Commander Scott Maccoll of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing.
Military minister James Heappey of the United Kingdom stated, “This joint UK and German deployment in the Baltics clearly demonstrates our collective resolve to challenge any potential threat to NATO’s borders, while demonstrating our combined strength.”
Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, NATO planes were involved in roughly 400 interceptions a year with Russian aircraft, so this kind of thing is par for the course. However, tensions are already high due to a recent incident involving a Russian jet and a US drone over the Black Sea.
On Tuesday, there was an incident, and both Washington and Moscow gave contradictory accounts. U.S. officials claim a Russian Su-27 fighter jet collided with a MQ-9 Reaper drone, causing them to shoot it down. According to Russia, the drone went down after attempting a “sharp maneuver.”
It appeared that this was the first time a US aircraft had been shot down by a Russian fighter jet since the height of the Cold War. It brought attention to the potential for conflict between Russia and the West as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.