The UK Ministry of Defense announced that the Royal Air Force has had to scramble its Typhoon fighters to intercept Russian bombers to the north of Scotland in what was seen as a provocative incident last week.
The Russian reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, Tu-142 Bear-F and Tu-142 Bear-J, were monitored by the Typhoon jets launched from RAF Lossiemouth in Moray. RAF Lossiemouth is one of the RAF’s two Quick Reaction Alert stations, where jets are always available to respond to threats at short notice.
Just days after this incident, the RAF seems to be working to thwart the threat posed by Russian aircraft more effectively.
To that end, four Typhoons from the RAF were deployed in a new quick response alert drill to assess the air force’s capacity to disperse and operate assets to safeguard British airspace quickly.
Known as Exercise Agile Pirate, it involved a secret relocation of four Typhoons from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to MOD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire. This location is closer than some of the places where Russian aircraft have been known to fly through.
As part of this exercise, two F-35B Lightning II aircraft, of which the RAF has 26 units, later joined the Typhoons. The fifth-generation fighter jet, the F-35B, has a vertical takeoff and was reportedly taking the opportunity to test its operability at an unfamiliar airbase.
Exercise Agile Pirate 10 has tested the RAF's ability to rapidly disperse & operate assets vital to UK defence with 4 Typhoons relocating at short notice to MOD Boscombe Down.#AgileCombatEmployment
— Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForce) August 19, 2023
Agile Pirate is a RAF’s Agile Combat Employment (ACE) program component. The strategy is essentially a method of conducting operations that calls for RAF troops and assets to be adaptable and agile; operating in remote areas with little assistance; constantly shifting and changing location to keep the initiative; and outpacing any action from an adversary, whether in the UK or abroad.
The UK MoD said it could be dangerous for RAF aircraft if Russian military aircraft enter the UK Flight Information Region, the UK’s controlled area of international airspace. These Russian aircraft frequently ‘squawk,’ transmitting a code to ensure they are visible to other air users and ground-based air traffic controllers.
After last week’s interception incident, an RAF Typhoon pilot said, “It’s satisfying to know we’ve been able to make a successful intercept, maintaining the integrity of UK and NATO airspace.”
In addition to this incident, the RAF intercepted a Russian Tu-142 over the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic Ocean on April 30.
The RAF fighter jets have had their fair share of brushes and encounters with Russian warplanes over NATO, where these jets also constantly operate on patrol missions under the NATO banner.
For instance, UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Lossiemouth pilots announced earlier this month that they scrambled to intercept Russian fighter jets some 50 times over the Baltic during a four-month deployment in Estonia. The crew was among the 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (140 EAW) sent to Estonia to assist with NATO airspace patrol missions.
RAF Typhoon fighter jets intercepted 21 Russian aircraft within 21 days this month.
The @RoyalAirForce is leading NATO’s air policing mission in Estonia, operating alongside the UK's Allies to strengthen the security of Europe’s airspace.
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) June 27, 2023
A fighter is typically sent to carry out the quick reaction alert (QRA) reaction if an area of interest or the airspace of a NATO country is breached. This requires collaboration between the reporting and operations centers and the RAF’s pilots. Several similar infractions have been reported since the Ukraine war, sometimes leading to non-threatening interceptions and others to uncalled-for engagements.
RAF Typhoons have reportedly played a commendable role in guarding NATO airspace. Being the reliable and cutting-edge fighter jets that the Typhoons are, they also participated in several drills to deter Russia. For instance, they were relocated to a forward base in Finland for training with Finnish F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets under the banner of ‘Exercise Joutsen Strike.’
The four-nation industrial collaboration “Eurofighter” created the British Typhoon. According to GlobalData information, the RAF has 102 of them. The RAF currently deploys the FGRs. The Mk4 variant of the aircraft includes cutting-edge features like ramjet-powered, radar-guided, beyond visual range Meteor missile and the infrared-guided ASRAAM missile.
The Typhoon FGR.Mk4 is a multi-role combat aircraft that is incredibly capable and agile. It can be used for air operations, including air policing, peacekeeping, and high-intensity conflict.
The hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) interface of the aircraft, in conjunction with a cutting-edge cockpit and the Helmet Equipment Assembly (HEA), make the Typhoon ideally prepared for all facets of air operations.
Although Typhoon has flown precision strike missions on its combat deployments, its primary duty is to provide the UK and the Falkland Islands with a quick reaction alert (QRA). According to the RAF, detachments have bolstered NATO air defense in the Baltic and Black Sea regions.
The Typhoon FGR4 can target a wide range of target types with its multirole capability and choice of armaments. It uses the Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which is infrared directed, and the Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) and the ramjet-powered, radar-guided, beyond visual range Meteor missile.
These armaments and the Typhoon’s excellent performance and maneuverability, Captor radar, and PIRATE electro-optical targeting system make it a very potent platform.
For ground-attack and close air support (CAS) missions, Typhoon is compatible with the GPS/laser-guided Enhanced Paveway II and Paveway IV bombs, the Brimstone guided missile, and close air support (CAS) missions using the Litening III targeting pod. Litening III, Paveway IV, Brimstone, and the internal 27mm cannon are part of its standard configuration for armed reconnaissance and CAS tasks.
For precisely customized target effects, Paveway IV incorporates cockpit-programmable impact angle, impact direction, and fuse delay features. e 27mm gun is perfect for firing warning rounds or precise attacks on targets like personnel and light vehicles.
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