RAF Russia Baltic 2016
An RAF Typhoon and Russian IL-76 Candid in close proximity over the BalticMinistry of Defence

RAF jets based in Estonia had to be scrambled in order to intercept three Russian military transport planes heading for the Baltic states, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed. The incident is the first of its type since four RAF Typhoons were deployed to the region in April 2016, as part of an annual commitment to Nato's Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission.

The fighter jets, based at Amari air base, Estonia, were alerted when the Russian planes approached without transmitting a recognised identification code. They were also unresponsive. The Russian planes were identified as AN-26 'Curl, AN-12 'Cub' and IL-76 'Candid'.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "This is another example of just how important the UK's contribution to the Baltic Air Policing Mission is. We were able to instantly respond to this act of Russian aggression - demonstration of our commitment to NATO's collective defence."

This year (2016) is the third in which RAF fighter jets and crew have been deployed in the Baltic along with Portuguese fighter jets based in Lithuania. Last year the RAF fighters were scrambled 17 times, intercepting over 40 Russian aircraft.

The jets and crew are from RAF Lossiemouth II (Army Co-operation) Squadron. One of the pilots involved in today's action said: "The scramble went exactly as planned, we launched our Typhoon aircraft quickly and then using our advanced sensors and mission systems, combined with support from our Battlespace Managers on the ground, carried out textbook intercepts of the three aircraft."

There have been many similar incidents in the region in recent years, with the West accusing Russia of being aggressive and Russia accusing the West of provocation. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are all members of Nato and neighbour Russia.