UK fighter jets have been scrambled 21 times in the last three weeks to respond to Russian aircraft as part of NATO’s air policing operations in Europe’s Baltic region, the UK announced late Saturday.
The Royal Air Force Typhoon jets, which are now based in Estonia, are part of the Western alliance’s “quick reaction alert” aircraft, which are deployed to safeguard the alliance’s eastern European flank.
Their answer comes amid rising tensions with Moscow over the country’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which was temporarily overshadowed this weekend by a mutiny within Russia by the Wagner paramilitary force.
The UK Typhoons, which have been operating out of an Estonian air base since March, were dispatched to monitor the Russian aircraft after they failed to reply to air traffic control, according to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
They patrol the skies above the Baltics alongside Portuguese and Romanian air units located in Lithuania, according to the report.
Su-27 fighter jets, long-range bombers, transport and information gathering aircraft were among the Russian aircraft detected.
Quick reaction alert missions see NATO air force crews maintain “constant high readiness to ensure they can get airborne at a moment’s notice,” according to Britain’s defence ministry.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the intercepts were “a stark reminder of the value of collective defence and deterrence provided by NATO”.
“The RAF has operated alongside our allies over the last three weeks to ensure both member states and our partner nations are protected, and they can be assured of our ongoing commitment to strengthening European security alongside those who share our values,” he added.
While deployed to Estonia, the RAF has also taken part in several major aerial exercises with NATO allies, including “Exercise Air Defender”, which the ministry described as the largest since the end of the Cold War.
It featured more than 250 aircraft and 10,000 personnel from 25 nations.