Op Azotize: What Is The RAF's Role In Lithuania?

Royal Air Force Typhoons from 6 Squadron are taking part in a NATO Air Policing mission in Lithuania this summer.

One hundred and fifty Royal Air Force personnel are on Baltic Air Policing duties in Lithuania this summer, as part of Operation Azotize.

Their task is to defend NATO airspace.

Personnel are on high readiness to react to any aircraft that causes concern in Baltic airspace.

They can be in the sky escorting an aircraft that poses a threat within minutes.

RAF Typhoons have already been called into action since deploying in late April, intercepting Russian aircraft twice in 48 hours.

The UK and Spain are both on duty in Lithuania, with Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth working alongside Spanish Air Force F-18s at Šiauliai Air Base.

Meanwhile, French colleagues share the load by covering Estonia.

“We have actually deployed a cross section of the Royal Air Force," said Wing Commander, Stu Gwinnutt.

"We’ve got everything you need to get those Typhoon aircraft in the air.

"That’s from administrators, logisticians, medics, firemen, communications technicians.

"We’ve effectively created a mini RAF station in a deployed location."

Watch: Typhoons scramble to intercept Russian aircraft.

The focus of the mission is on Quick Reaction Alerts (QRAs).

Wg Cdr Stu Gwinnutt explained the procedure once the alarm sounds, meaning their aircraft need to scramble.

"It’s very reminiscent of a Battle of Britain film," he said.

"The bell goes, the pilots and the ground crew run out to the aircraft and then we’re airborne a few minutes later.

"When the call does come, the threat is very real but we're all professional - It is something we train for.

"The training kicks in and we take it very seriously."

The mission has gone ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, but precautions are in place.

The crew have been practicing social distancing and have undergone rigorous isolation and testing procedures.

This deployment is the sixth time the UK has taken part in the mission.

Cover image: RAF.