The Royal Air Force (RAF) has commenced a four-month deployment to Romania, to enhance Nato’s air security on its eastern flank, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 9 April. 

The operation, part of NATO’s ongoing efforts to secure airspace on the alliance’s eastern border close to the Black Sea, includes six Typhoon fighter jets from IX (Bomber) Squadron and over two hundred personnel from 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (140EAW), operating out of RAF Lossiemouth. 

These forces have been stationed at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania and will conduct operations alongside the Romanian Air Force as part of the enhanced Air Policing mission (eAP).

Nato introduced eAP in the south in 2014, following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, as a measure to reassure allied nations along the eastern flank. The UK’s contribution to the air policing mission, including this latest deployment, is part of a broader commitment to the alliance, which also sees a significant presence of British soldiers in Estonia as part of Nato’s enhanced Forward Presence.

The RAF’s role in the mission involves Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) intercepts, primarily to identify and monitor Russian aircraft approaching Nato airspace without proper communication or without Nato-controlled regional air traffic agencies. 

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps highlighted the importance of this mission, stating, “Our Nato air policing deployment helps to keep Europe’s skies secure, and I pay tribute to the dedicated personnel delivering this important mission.” He further emphasised the readiness of the Typhoon pilots to respond professionally to threats, contributing to Nato’s collective security.

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Air Commodore Martin Cunningham characterised the RAF’s return to Romania as a proud moment, praising the extensive preparation and the collaborative effort with Romanian colleagues, one that highlights the UK’s commitment to Nato and demonstrates the RAF’s capability for air power projection.

Wing Commander Karl Bird, Commanding Officer of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, stated that the deployment will be the RAF’s fifth eAP rotation in Romania, having completed the first iteration in 2014. “The missions contribute to the development of the reaction and deterrence capacity and is a strong sign of the Alliance’s cohesion. Ensuring NATO is ready to secure the skies 24/7.”