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RAF presence in Romania ‘strong deterrent to Russia’

British personnel were deployed to Romania in April for four months as part of Op Biloxi, policing the skies above the Black Sea.

A senior officer from the RAF has said their presence in Romania has changed the behaviour of Russia because they are a “strong deterrent”.

Around 150 British personnel are currently stationed in the Eastern European city of Constanta as part of Nato’s enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission alongside American and Romanian forces.

The operation was established to deter Russian aggression and the RAF is providing a large portion of the numbers through 135 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) based at RAF Leeming.

Taking a leading role in eAP, the RAF sent four Typhoon jets to the Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase – situated just over 1,000km away from Russia on the other side of the Black Sea.

Squadron Leader Ellis Williams, one of the Typhoon pilots stationed in Romania, told the Press Association the jet is “extremely capable” but there is always a way to enhance it.

He said: “There are extra capabilities that we would like to enable us to perform a high level of mission – but that goes across defence.

“Ultimately, almost every capability we have could be improved if there is money allocated but we need to prioritise.

“So, do we have enough? To fulfil this role for example, absolutely.”

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Squadron Leader Ellis Williams adjusts his straps during a mock scramble (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Speaking of the difference between the capabilities of the British jets and the Romanian aircraft, Sqn Ldr Williams said the Typhoons acted as a strong deterrent to Russia.

He said: “We have an incredibly capable fighter aircraft and we operate here alongside the Romanian Mig 21s and there’s a generational gap between the capabilities.

“When we are here we notice a very strong difference in the behaviour of the Russians because we are a strong deterrent.”

The British personnel were deployed to Romania on April 17 for four months as part of Op Biloxi, policing the skies above the Black Sea.

Since arriving in Constanta, there has been only one scramble when a Russian Federation Air Force IL-20 entered Nato airspace on May 4 – but they practice for a similar event twice a week.

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Chris Ball speaks to the media at Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in Constanta (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Asked whether his squadron is fully resourced despite a reported funding battle between the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary back in the UK, Wing Commander Chris Ball told the Press Association: “We have everything we need to conduct this mission, so I’ve got no concerns with that.

“Of course, as a military commander, we’ve got a lot of great ideas as a team and we want to push hard and make good use of those resources and squeeze as much out of our time here as possible.

“I think we are getting great value out of this mission because, you could ask, why are we air-policing Romania? Well, we are demonstrating we are committed partners within Nato.”

Answering questions on a potential Russian threat, Wing Cdr Ball said: “Here, ourselves, we don’t have a high threat level against us, we are conducting a peace-time defensive operation.

“We are part of that Nato alliance, we would take collective decisions if ever we push towards Article Five – collective defence – so what we are doing here is policing the skies and also taking that opportunity to integrate into Nato, train with our Nato partners, so that we are stronger and more cohesive if ever the need came to take some kind of increased response.”

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