The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) deployed four Typhoon fighter jets in another iteration of a quick response alert exercise to test the air force’s ability to rapidly disperse and operate assets to protect British airspace.
The FGR.Mk 4 variant used in the RAF employs the infrared-guided ASRAAM missile and ramjet-powered, radar-guided, beyond visual range Meteor missile, as well as the AMRAAM missile.
Exercise Agile Pirate, as the drill is known, follows the recent presence of Russian aircraft near British airspace announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 14 August, just north of the Shetland Islands within Nato’s northern air policing area.
At the time, Typhoons were sent to monitor Russian Tu-142 ‘Bear-F’ and Tu-142 ‘Bear-J’ maritime patrol aircraft, used for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.
The incident was not the first time this year as the RAF also intercepted a Russian Tu-142 over the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic Ocean on 30 April.
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To sharpen its aerial readiness, the RAF exercise transferred four Typhoons from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire to MOD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire; a closer destination compared to the areas that Russian aircraft have been known to transit.
Notably, the Typhoons were later joined by two F-35B Lightning II aircraft, of which the RAF has 26 units.
The F-35B is a vertical take-off, fifth-generation fighter jets “also taking the opportunity to test their operability at an unfamiliar airbase.”
RAF Typhoons sharpen ‘Agile Combat Employment’ skills
Agile Pirate is part of the RAF’s aim to conduct Agile Combat Employment (ACE).
The strategy is an approach to operations that requires RAF personnel and assets to be flexible and agile; operating in austere locations with minimal support, constantly moving and changing location to maintain the initiative, and outpace any action from an adversary whether in the UK or overseas.
“Moving at pace presents its own challenges and we have pushed some assumptions to move even faster,” Wing Commander Paul Hanson observed.