UK and German Air Forces Join in Joint NATO Air Policing Operation Near Estonian Airspace

On March 14, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the German Air Force conducted their first joint NATO Air Policing operation and intercepted a Russian air-to-air refuelling aircraft near Estonian airspace. The two Typhoon fighter jets, one from each nation, identified and monitored the plane as it transited close to NATO borders.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between NATO and Russia due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.[0] While there is no evidence of a link between the incident and the reported collision between a Russian fighter jet and a US drone over the Black Sea, it has magnified the yearlong tensions between the West and the Kremlin.[1]

The joint mission was praised by UK Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, who said: “NATO continues to form the bedrock of our collective security. This joint UK and German deployment in the Baltics clearly demonstrates our collective resolve to challenge any potential threat to NATO’s borders, whilst demonstrating our combined strength.”[2]

Approximately 300 RAF personnel are marking the UK’s preparation to spearhead the NATO air policing mission in April, safeguarding NATO skies in the area for four months.[3] Wing Commander Scott Maccoll, commanding officer of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, said: “Today marks a great ‘first’ for our two Air Forces. We have been working together for some time and the level of cooperation has now 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 the jets to planning and logistic activities.”[4]

The two Typhoons were also tasked to intercept an AN148 airliner, which was also passing close to Estonian airspace.[5] Meanwhile, two F-35s from Evenes air base on alert for NATO were scrambled and met two Russian Tu-142 and Il-38 planes from the Kola Peninsula’s Severomorsk-1 air base over the Barents Sea.[6]

Entering its second week, the Joint Viking exercise in Norway has enlisted nearly 20,000 soldiers from various NATO and partner countries to conduct drills in the Arctic Circle.[6] Ships from various NATO countries are taking part in the British naval exercise Joint Warrior off Northern Norway.[7]

0. “British, German jets combine to escort Russian plane near Estonian airspace” ERR News, 15 Mar. 2023,

1. “How NATO sees the recent Russian jet incidents” DW (English), 15 Mar. 2023,

2. “British, German air forces intercept Russian aircraft” Peoples Gazette, 15 Mar. 2023,

3. “British, German fighter aircraft to jointly police skies of NATO ally Estonia” UPI News, 6 Mar. 2023,

4. “RAF to conduct joint NATO air policing missions with German Air Force in Estonia” Sky News, 6 Mar. 2023,

5. “RAF and German Air Force Typhoons intercept Russian aircraft in first joint NATO air policing scramble” GOV.UK, 15 Mar. 2023,

6. “Admiral Moiseev kicks off command and staff exercise, NATO scrambles F-35s from Evenes” The Independent Barents Observer, 15 Mar. 2023,

7. “F-35 Stealth Fighters Scrambled To Intercept Russian ‘Super Interceptor’ MiG-31 Hours After Su-27 ‘Took Down’ Reaper Drone” EurAsian Times, 15 Mar. 2023,

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