RAF’s Air Policing Mission in Estonia: Intercepting Dozens of Russian Aircraft Sends Powerful Message to Putin

RAF’s Air Policing Mission in Estonia: Intercepting Dozens of Russian Aircraft Sends Powerful Message to Putin

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has sent a strong message of unity to Russian President Vladimir Putin through its leadership of a NATO air policing mission in Estonia.


With the interception of dozens of Russian aircraft, the RAF has demonstrated the unwavering commitment of the United Kingdom and its allies in safeguarding European airspace and countering potential threats to their borders.

After four months of leading the mission, RAF personnel have returned to the UK, having intercepted 50 Russian aircraft and accumulated over 500 hours of flight time.

Operation Azotize: Intercepting Russian Aircraft:

Deployed at Amari Air Base since March, the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (140 EAW) and RAF Typhoon fighter jets conducted Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) intercepts of Russian aircraft near NATO airspace.

The deployment, named Operation Azotize, witnessed the first-ever joint air intercept between NATO allies, as British and German Typhoons shadowed a Russian air-to-air refueling and transport aircraft.


Defence Secretary’s Praise for RAF’s Success:

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace commended the dedication of hundreds of RAF pilots and personnel who worked tirelessly alongside allies to ensure the safety of Europe’s skies during the air policing mission in Estonia.

The successful leadership of NATO’s air policing mission by the UK, resulting in the interception of dozens of Russian aircraft, conveyed a clear message to President Putin that NATO stands united with its allies against any border threats.

Intercepting Russian Aircraft: Ensuring Safety and Compliance:

Personnel from 140 EAW were on high alert to quickly intercept Russian aircraft that failed to adhere to standard communication rules with NATO air traffic agencies and didn’t file proper flight plans.

This behavior posed safety risks to all aircraft in the region, necessitating close monitoring by NATO aircraft to ensure everyone’s safety.

The RAF’s Typhoon jets efficiently intercepted Russian fighters, long-range bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft on numerous occasions during their deployment, including 21 intercepts within a 21-day period.


Collaborative Efforts and Transition of Responsibility:

Throughout the deployment, the RAF conducted operations in coordination with the Portuguese and Romanian Air Forces, who jointly led the NATO air policing mission in Lithuania.

The successful mission in Estonia was a testament to the commitment and dedication of personnel from the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, who played a crucial role in protecting NATO airspace over the four-month period.

As the RAF returned to the UK, Wing Commander Scott MacColl officially handed over the responsibility of the air policing mission in Estonia to the Spanish Air Force.

RAF’s Commitment to NATO and Collective Defense:

Air and Space Commander, Air Marshal Harv Smyth, emphasized the RAF’s commitment to its role within NATO, ensuring the strength and unity of the alliance and deterring and defending against threats to NATO security.

The 140 Expeditionary Air Wing excelled in Estonia, participating in 12 major NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force exercises alongside the air policing role.



The RAF’s successful leadership in Estonia during the NATO air policing mission has demonstrated the alliance’s collective commitment to defending European airspace and countering potential threats.

Intercepting dozens of Russian aircraft sends a powerful message of unity to President Putin, reaffirming NATO’s dedication to safeguarding its borders.

As the mission transitions to the Spanish Air Force, the RAF remains steadfast in its commitment to protect UK airspace, ensuring the safety and integrity of the region 24/7, 365 days a year.


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