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

RAF Typhoons from 6 Squadron took part in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania over the summer alongside the Spanish Air Force.

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

Their task was to defend NATO airspace.

Personnel were on high readiness to react to any aircraft that causes concern in Baltic airspace or enters it without permission.

RAF Typhoons have completed their final operational mission as part of the four-month deployment, returning to Kinloss Barracks in the UK.

The fighter jets can be in the sky escorting an aircraft that poses a threat within minutes.

Deploying on the mission in late April, the work of the RAF crews including intercepting Russian aircraft twice in 48 hours.

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

Meanwhile, French colleagues shared the load by covering Estonia.

"We have actually deployed a cross section of the Royal Air Force," said Wing Commander, Stu Gwinnutt, speaking earlier in Op Azotize.

"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 went ahead amid the coronavirus pandemic, but precautions were put in place.

The crew practiced social distancing as well as rigorous isolation and testing procedures.

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

The RAF has now handed over to Italy and Germany for eight months, who will then handover to another two countries.

Cover image: RAF.