The Royal Air Force Complete This Years NATO Air Policing Mission
The Royal Air Force Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth based 6 Squadron that have formed part of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing have completed their final operational mission after spending four months based in Lithuania.
Operating from Šiauliai Air Base, 135 EAW have handed over their mission to the Italian Air Force during a ceremony held at the airbase. With the handover the Italians become the lead nation for the ongoing NATO Baltic Air Policing mission conducted from Siauliai.
Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, Commander of 135 EAW
Summing up the end of the deployment, Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, Commander of 135 EAW said:
“The deployment has been a huge success despite the ever-present risk of Covid, which we successfully navigated through sensible contingency planning. Along with our Spanish and French partners we’ve maintained the integrity of Baltic Airspace and participated in numerous NATO maritime, land and air exercises.
“During our four months the EAW has conducted 10 Scrambles and have intercepted 15 Russian military aircraft flying through Lithuanian controlled airspace over the Baltic Sea. We have also conducted numerous exercises with other air forces, as well as Air Land and Air Maritime integration training.
“The deployment has also been a great experience for the personnel of 135 EAW, not only in delivering the mission but to integrate into the local community as much as possible, sampling Lithuanian culture and hospitality and to raise some much needed funds for worthwhile local charities through sporting events.”
On Friday 28 August, two of the EAW’s Typhoons took part in one final exercise when they joined Exercise Allied Skies to escort US Air Force B52 bombers flying across Europe from their temporary base at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire.
The B52 Stratofortress exercise saw the bombers from the US Bomber Task Force fly over all 30 NATO countries in an exercise to demonstrate the alliance’s solidarity, increase preparedness and offer opportunities for training to enhance cooperation.
The Baltic Air Policing mission continued to react during the Allied Skies exercise, with both the Spanish and French Air Forces performing multiple scrambles in the week running up to the exercise to safeguard international airspace and exercise participants.
Wing Commander Gwinnutt added: “From a Royal Air Force perspective, I’m pleased to say that we’ve finished on a high with the last week being one of our busiest, with two intercepts of a Russian COOT maritime aircraft that wasn’t complying with international air traffic regulations, and support to the US Bomber Task Force in the Baltic Region.”