RAF and German Air Force Typhoons intercept Russian aircraft

An RAF Typhoon escorts a Russian IL78 tanker aircraft
Photo Credit: UK Ministry of Defence

Royal Air Force and German Air Force Typhoon fighters have intercepted a Russian IL78 refuelling aircraft which was identified close to Estonian airspace on Tuesday.

A Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet operating from Ämari Air Base in Estonia has carried out the first joint NATO Air Policing interception alongside a German Air Force Typhoon. 

The two aircraft launched on Tuesday, 14 March to intercept a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft that was flying close to Estonian airspace. The Ilyushin IL78 Midas had failed to communicate with air traffic control in Estonia.

Following this the two Typhoon jets were scrambled to intercept and escort the Russian IL78 Midas, which was observed flying between St Petersburg and Kaliningrad.

Following a successful visual identification and escort, the pair of Typhoons were re-tasked to intercept an AN148 airliner, also passing Estonian airspace.

NATO Air Policing operations

The RAF and German Air Force are presently conducting planned Joint NATO Air Policing, in what is a first for the two NATO Allies.

The interception is however a routine NATO mission for the Typhoons which provides reassurance that the UK and Germany together with other NATO allies stand with their Estonian ally at this time of tension.

140 Expeditionary Air Wing comments

Operating as part of the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing are the Typhoons of IX (Bomber) Squadron. The Typhoon pilot involved in the intercept with a German colleague described the incident:

“We were scrambled to intercept an aircraft that was approaching Estonian airspace. We identified and monitored it as it transited close to NATO airspace.”


“Any aircraft that are not communicating with Air Traffic Control or on a recognised 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 a routine business, even though I was flying alongside a German colleague. It is clear that all of our training and hard work paid off as we seamlessly operated together.”

 Commander of the RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, Wing Commander Scott Maccoll added the following conclusion:

“It was great to see the UK and German elements operate as one team. As NATO continually adapts its structures and workforce, today shows us the next evolution.”

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 3 Min Read
3 Min Read
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