Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter jets had to be scrambled in two emergencies over the weekend as Russian planes were spotted heading towards NATO airspace.
Typhoon fighters from Ämari Air Base in Estonia took off in response to Quick Reaction Alerts (QRA) after the sightings of the aircraft were received on Friday and Saturday.
This brings the RAF’s total number of intercepts of Russian aircraft to eight since taking over the Baltic Air Policing mission on May 3 this year.
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On Friday, RAF Typhoon (pictured foreground) crews in Estonia received a Quick Reaction Alert to intercept a SU-30 Flanker fighter aircraft (background) that had been flying to the north of Estonia
The RAF Eurofighter Typhoon (right) is pictured escorting the Russian SU-30 Flanker fighter craft out of NATO airspace above Estonia
On the Friday incident, a Typhoon pilot said: ‘We escorted the fighter over the Baltic sea, around Estonia and passing over another Russian military transport aircraft in the process’
The first alert came on Friday evening as a call out to respond to a Russian SU-30 fighter aircraft flying to the north of Estonia.
But as the Typhoon pilot accompanied the fighter out of Estonia, they came across another military aircraft.
A Typhoon pilot from XI Squadron on duty at the time said: ‘We were scrambled to intercept a contact close to Estonian airspace in the early evening, between two periods of poor weather.
The next day RAF crews intercepted a Russian SU-30 Flanker fighter (foreground) and an Ilyushin IL-76 Candid transport aircraft (background) flying north from the Russian province of Kaliningrad towards Estonian and Finnish airspace
How the British and Russian aircraft measure up
British RAF Typhoon
Role: Fighter jet
Top speed: 1,381mph
Unit cost: £125 million
First flight: 1994
Weaponry: Mauser cannon, Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Paveway II and Paveway IV precision-guided bombs
Russian Sukhoi SU-30
Role: Fighter jet
Top speed: 1,317mph
Unit cost: £30 million
First flight: 1989
Weaponry: Can be armed with a machine gun, bombs, air-to-air missiles, and supersonic anti-ship and land attack missiles
Russian Ilyushin IL-76
Role: Strategic airlifter
Top speed: 560mph
Unit cost: Unknown
First flight: 1971
Crew: Six or seven
Weaponry: 2×23 mm cannon in radar-directed manned turret at base of tail. Can also carry 500kg bombs
The IL-76 is a medium-range military transport aircraft used to drop paratroopers, carry troop forces and combat material with crews and armaments, including medium-sized battle tanks or disaster relief resources
NATO airspace guideline dictate a relatively narrow passage for Russian to fly in as they circumvent the international alliance’s domain
Russian flying into the Baltic Sea area from St Petersburg are provided a legal corridor in which to fly outside of Finnish or Estonian airspace. A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed the Russian aircraft did not actually enter NATO airspace but were called out to shadow the planes past Estonia
‘Shortly after getting airborne we came alongside a SU-30 Flanker fighter aircraft.
‘We escorted the fighter over the Baltic sea, around Estonia and passing over another Russian military transport aircraft in the process.’
The intercept was completed successfully.
Crews then had to make a second scramble on Saturday June 15 as another Russian SU-30 Flanker fighter and an Ilyushin IL-76 Candid transport aircraft flew towards Estonian airspace.
The planes had come from Kaliningrad, a small Russian province sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania which is separated from mainland Russia.
‘We scrambled to intercept two contacts that were approaching Estonian airspace from the south.
The Russian SU-30 Flanker (right) fighter and an Ilyushin IL-76 Candid transport carrier (bottom left) are seen travelling under the supervision of a Typhoon on Saturday. ‘We escorted the two aircraft for 15 minutes as they transited back towards mainland Russia,’ said the pilot after handing over control to a Finnish aircraft
The Russian SU-30 fighter, which has the NATO reporting name Flanker-C, was introduced into the Russia Air Force in 1996
The planes intercepted on Saturday had come from Kaliningrad, a small Russian province sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania which is separated from mainland Russia
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that in both cases the aircraft ‘were flown at a safe distance and operated in a professional manner throughout’
Sukhoi SU-30 fighters can be armed with a machine gun, bombs, air-to-air missiles, and supersonic anti-ship and land attack missiles. Each fighter, which costs £30 million to produce, has a two-man crew and a top speed of 1,317mph
‘We escorted the two aircraft for 15 minutes as they transited back towards mainland Russia.
‘We then handed over responsibility to two Finnish QRA aircraft, which had also been scrambled as the Russian aircraft operated on the airspace boundary between Estonia and Finland,’ said a Typhoon pilot on completion of the intercept.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that in both cases the aircraft ‘were flown at a safe distance and operated in a professional manner throughout’.
The Royal Air Force is deployed on Operation AZOTIZE in Estonia in support of the NATO Baltic Air Policing programme.