Britain sends frigate, fighter jets to boost Baltic security

Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke and four Typhoon jets will deploy to the Baltic later this month to support NATO security efforts in the eastern Europe.

HMS Iron Duke is due to return to the Baltic region after participating in the bi-annual, multinational Exercise Joint Warrior off the coast of Scotland.

The frigate is half way through a six-month deployment to northern Europe as part of a multinational NATO task group where she has taken part in exercises and operations.

Additionally, four Typhoons will join NATO’s Baltic air policing mission which is based at Amari air base in Estonia. British planes will serve as assets for intercepts in a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) role guarding the airspace over the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

As part of standing arrangements within NATO, members of the alliance without their own air policing assets are assisted by others which contribute on a four-month cycle.

The UK deployed Typhoon aircraft to Lithuania in spring 2014 and to Estonia between May and August 2015. This time they will operate alongside the Portuguese air force.

The UK announcement comes amid increasing tensions between NATO states and Russia. Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone CB CBE, Commander of Allied Maritime Command in February, 2016 noted that the Russian aggressive new maritime doctrine changed the way NATO is thinking and behaving.

The Commander also expressed concern over Russian Navy submarines becoming more active in the North Atlantic and making technological advances. “A lot of what the Russians are doing at the moment we don’t understand, and is obscure and is shrouded in other activity which makes us nervous, and makes nations nervous,” Johnstone told to Jane’s at the Surface Warship Summit in Bucharest, Romania, held in January this year.

More recently, a Russian naval task group with the Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov at the helm caused distress when British, Dutch, French and Belgian Navy ships were sent to escort the flotilla passing through European waters.