British and German warplanes scrambled to intercept two Russian planes flying near Estonia on a joint NATO mission on Tuesday, hours after a Kremlin fighter jet shot down a US drone over the Black Sea, amid fears of an escalation in the region.
RAF aircraft and German Typhoons were reacting to a Russian air-to-air refueling plane after it failed to communicate with Estonian air traffic control over the Baltic Sea, and as it approached Estonian airspace. NATO.
The Russian Il-78 Midas plane was intercepted while flying between Saint Petersburg and Kaliningrad. The NATO planes were later redirected to also intercept a Russian An-148 airliner that was also passing near Estonian airspace.
It was the first joint NATO air surveillance fight conducted by the two countries, and comes amid a period of heightened tension in the region due to Vladimir Putin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and his threats to allies. western Kiev.
Yesterday, the US State Department summoned Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, to protest after a Russian fighter jet crashed and destroyed an American Reaper drone in the early hours of the tomorrow.
British and German Typhoon fighter jets (in a photo released by Germany’s air force) rushed to intercept a Russian plane flying near Estonia on a joint NATO mission on Tuesday, hours after a fighter jet of the Kremlin to shoot down an American drone over the Black Sea.
The Russian Il-78 Midas jet (in a picture released by Germany’s air force on Tuesday) was flying between St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad.
US officials said the MQ-9 surveillance drone was shot down after an “unsafe and unprofessional interception” in international airspace by two Russian Su-27 fighter jets.
Pentagon officials said Russian fighters harassed the drone by fueling it and flying in front of it, before an Su-27 clipped the $32 million drone’s propeller, forcing it to crash over the Black Sea in a total loss of the drone.
The UK is preparing to take over from Germany to lead the NATO mission in Estonia, one of three Baltic states (all NATO members) that also border Russia.
British pilots are conducting joint air surveillance missions in Estonia alongside the German air force for the first time.
The Russian Midas was flying from Russia’s second city, Saint Petersburg, which is located near the borders of Finland and Estonia, and lies on the Baltic Sea.
He was traveling to Kaliningrad, a Russian semi-exclave also on the Baltic Sea that is Russia’s westernmost point.
After escorting the Midas refueling plane, the two NATO jets were redirected to intercept the An-148 airliner, which was also approaching Estonian airspace.
The Defense Ministry stressed the ‘routine’ nature of the mission, but it comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said: “NATO continues to form the foundation of our collective security.
“This joint UK-German deployment to the Baltic clearly demonstrates our collective determination to challenge any potential threat to NATO’s borders, while demonstrating our combined strength.”
A Typhoon pilot from the RAF’s IX (Bomber) Squadron, who was not named by the MoD, said: ‘We went scrambled to intercept a plane approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it while it was in transit near NATO airspace.
‘Any aircraft not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognized flight plan will be intercepted by us to ensure we know who they are and maintain flight safety for all airspace users.
“As a fighter pilot, this was routine, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It’s clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we operated seamlessly together.’
The jets involved in the mission are part of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing and the German 71 Richthofen Tactical Air Wing.
The commander of the RAF’s 140th Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, said it had been “great” to see British and German forces “operate as one team”.
NATO planes also redirected a Russian An-148 airliner (in the photos released by the German air force) that was also passing near Estonian airspace.
The UK is preparing to take over from Germany to lead the NATO mission in Estonia, one of the three Baltic states (all NATO members) and bordering Russia. Pictured: British troops take part in drills in February 2022 in Estonia, weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The details of the mission came amid a fresh reminder of the depth of US-Russia tensions after a Russian fighter jet struck the propeller of a US surveillance drone over the Black Sea.
The United States called it a “blatant violation of international law” and had US forces shoot down the UAV.
Moscow said the US drone maneuvered sharply and crashed into the water after an encounter with Russian warplanes that rushed to intercept it near Crimea, but insisted its warplanes did not fire their weapons or hit the drone.
The incident appeared to mark the first time since the height of the Cold War that a US plane has been shot down after an encounter with a Russian fighter jet.
“This incident demonstrates a lack of competence as well as being unsafe and unprofessional,” Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder at a press conference.
The incident occurred in international airspace, but not far from the battles taking place on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the US drone was flying into its airspace with its transponder turned off, and Russian fighters were dispatched to investigate.
“The Russian fighters did not use airborne weapons and did not come into contact with the American drone,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Due to sudden maneuvers, the US drone began an uncontrolled flight with loss of altitude and collided with the surface of the water,” the statement added.
Russian Ambassador Antonov has been summoned to discuss the incident, US spokesman Ned Price said, calling it a “blatant violation of international law”.
Antonov accused the United States of an “act of provocation” and said the Russian fighter failed to shoot down the Reaper drone.
Yesterday, the US State Department summoned Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the US, to protest after a Russian fighter jet crashed and destroyed an American Reaper drone (pictured) in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Kirby, the White House spokesman, said the State Department “will speak directly with their Russian counterparts and express our concern about this unprofessional and unsafe interception.”
“If the message is that they want to discourage us from flying, from operating in international airspace over the Black Sea, then that message will fail,” Kirby said.
‘We don’t need to have some sort of check with the Russians before we fly into international airspace. There is no requirement to do that nor do we do it,” he added.
While the United States is not sailing warships in the Black Sea, it has routinely been flying surveillance planes in and around the area.