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WATCH: RAF Typhoons Police Romanian Skies

Forces News was given access to Op BILOXI ahead of 1 Squadron’s deployment to Romania.

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RAF Typhoon pilots from 1 Squadron are preparing to deploy to Romania in the next few weeks to provide the country with Quick Reaction Alert.

They will take over from their Lossiemouth colleagues, 2 Squadron, who are currently there as part of NATO’s enhanced air policing mission.

It was introduced after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and is part of NATO’s assurance measures.

In the month that 2 Squadron has been in Romania, they have only been scrambled on just one occasion.

 

Squadron Leader Roger Cruikshank DFC, 2 Squadron said: "We’ve had one live scramble and that was at the beginning of the operation.

"The QRA [Quick Reaction Alert] is there so if any threat aircraft threaten our air space that we are patrolling with the Romanians, then they will launch us to go and intercept that threat aircraft.

"We are there on QRA, on point, ready to deliver that within minutes.

"We are there to deter that threat as well, just from being airbourne, and because we are flying most days that means we are always delivering that presence alongside our MiG-21s - the Romanian counterparts."

Squadron Leader Roger Cruikshank on what it is like to be scrambled.

Op BILOXI sees RAF pilots spend alternate weeks on high-readiness standby to defend NATO’s airspace over the Black Sea, augmenting the Romanian Air Force’s existing air defence capability.

Wing Commander Chris Ball, Commanding Officer of 135 Expeditionary Air Wing said: "Our mission here is to conduct enhanced air policing... enhanced because we’re enhancing the Romanian QRA and air policing that they are already conducting 365, 24/7."

"Air policing is a peace time defensive mission and it’s policing in perhaps the same way a policeman would patrol the streets of any big city in the UK."

Asked if he thought NATO actions in eastern Europe could be seen as stoking a Cold War, he said:

"NATO’s extremely clear that this is a defensive mission… we are only four aircraft, that’s not a huge force that could ever be construed as offensive."

"We patrol and police the airspace but it’s part of a wider continuous NATO mission of policing all of NATO air space and it’s a mission that’s been going on for decades.

"This is an extremely important region, economically for nations in the Black Sea it’s an extremely important corner of Europe.

"So I think if we can look at the statistics… that presence of NATO partners in Romania appears to show there are less requirements to scramble.

"I think it’s reasonable to take from that, we are having a positive effect by being here."