By Clement Charpentreau
Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters stationed in Estonia were scrambled to intercept a Russian Air Force flight group in close proximity to NATO airspace.
The Eurofighter Typhoon jets deployed by the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) at Ämari Air Base were called into action after an Ilyushin Il-20M surveillance aircraft escorted by two Su-27 Flanker fighters were spotted flying dangerously close to the boundaries of NATO airspace.
The Ilyushin Il-20 (NATO reporting name: Coot-A) is a large turboprop electronic reconnaissance aircraft based on the Il-18, a popular Soviet civilian airliner.
According to the RAF, the Russian aircraft failed to comply with the established international protocols, which require coordination with air traffic controllers of the relevant Flight Information Regions (FIRs).
The RAF’s 140 EAW are deployed to Amari Airbase until August 2023 to undertake NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission. The mission started in 2004 when the Baltic States joined NATO. It is one of the main missions of NATO air forces, which rotate to protect Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian airspaces from incursions, as these countries have no airborne capability of their own.