Royal Air Force (RAF) Typhoons have joined Typhoons from the German Air Force in Estonia to carry out the first NATO Air Policing operational scrambles.
The RAF personnel from the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing are based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland.
The Expeditionary Air Wing in question will also take over the leadership of the long established Air Policing mission in Estonia starting in April.
As for the aircraft from the German Air Force, they also consist of Eurofighter Typhoons from the 71st Tactical Air Wing known as “Richthofen”.
Presently, it is the German Air Force (GAF) that is leading the Air Policing Mission in Estonia and once they hand over leadership to the RAF Expeditionary Air Wing, they will continue to operate in the country until the end of April.
“Today marks a great ‘first’ for our two air forces. We have been working together for some time and level of cooperation has now a reached a new level.”
“It continues to be an absolute pleasure to work with our German allies on all aspects of our mission – from maintenance and operation of jets to planning and logistic activities,” said Wing Commander Maccoll, 140th Expeditionary Air Wing Commander.
How does it work?
In order to achieve the integration between both the RAF and GAF to make this mission a success, the two air forces have trained together, so they can fully understand each other’s operating procedures.
Thankfully, both Air Forces fly the Eurofighter Typhoon, which makes the integration somewhat easier and simplified for both of them.
Of course national differences play their part, but this is is exactly one of the aims of such missions to break these barriers and allow for multiple air forces to work together seamlessly.
Having successfully trained together, both pilots from each Air Force will now conduct NATO controlled intercepts together.
What is a NATO Air Policing Mission?
NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission that aims to uphold the security of alliance airspace.
It is a collective task that mostly involves countries part of NATO as well as allies to NATO countries who operate with a continuous presence 24/7 365 days a year.
These Air Policing Missions can be seen as a strong demonstration of solidarity among allies. This is because countries with fighter aircraft capabilities are able to ensure that the safety and security of airspace within these allied countries remains at a consistent high level.
NATO Air Policing Missions, don’t just protect against threats to an allied country, but also provide support to say the likes of civilian aircraft, for example if one loses ATC communication.
NATINAMDS and AIRCOM
The way NATO Air Policing Missions are carried out is through the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS).
The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) is the person who oversees and is responsible for the conduct of the mission.
There is also Allied Air Command (AIRCOM), which is headquartered in Ramstein, Germany. The AIRCOM oversees all NATO Air Policing missions 24/7, 365 days a year and this command and control comes from two Combined Air Operations Centers (CAOCs).
One of them is in Torrejon, Spain and covers missions happening south of the Alps and other one is in Uedem, Germany and this one covers missions north of the Alps.
If an interception is required, it will depend on where in Europe the threat is coming from, for example if the threat is south of the alps, a NATO country south of the Alps will be in charge of dealing with the situation and vice versa.
As for which country that is told to launch their own QRA will be decided on the exact location of the threat and whose fighters can reach the target in the shortest possible time.