Britain will deploy four RAF jets in Romania amid growing tensions with Russia.
The Royal Air Force is set to deploy four Eurofighter Typhoon jets to Romania to deter “an increasingly assertive Russia,” the new British defense secretary Gavin Williamson has announced.
Williamson, who replaced Michael Fallon as the new UK defense minister, made the announcement at his debut NATO defense ministerial meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
He added that the UK will also be increasing its presence in eastern Europe and pledged to keep a battalion of 600 soldiers at “high readiness to respond to any situation in the region at short notice”
Press TV reports: The Typhoons were first deployed to patrol the skies over the Black Sea alongside other NATO jets in May and will be sent to carry out the same mission this time alongside their Romanian counterparts, Williamson said.
The so-called air-policing mission is NATO’s response to what it calls increased Russian air activity around Eastern Europe in recent years.
“In the face of an increasingly assertive Russia, the UK has significantly stepped up its commitment to Europe and today I can confirm a further package of support, showing how we remain at the forefront on European security,” Williamson said.
He added that the UK is preparing to increase its presence in eastern Europe, pledging to keep a battalion of 600 soldiers at “high readiness to respond to any situation in the region at short notice” from 2018.
This is separate from the troops the UK has already deployed to Kosovo as well as its contributions to the European Union’s Op Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The UK defense minister also promised that the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean amphibious assault ship will make a return to “the NATO standing maritime group.”
NATO has been patrolling the Baltic skies since 2004, when the three Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the military alliance but lacked the aviation power to monitor their own airspace.
The alliance has recently completed positioning about 4,500 soldiers in the three Baltic States, as well as Poland, as a deterrent to what they call Russian aggression.
Moscow has repeatedly criticized the military buildup on its borders, saying it undermines regional security. In response, it has beefed up its southwestern military capacity, deploying nuclear-capable missiles to its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland and Lithuania.