The RAF detachment conducting a Nato enhanced Air Policing Mission in Romania has now handed it over to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
The 121 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) has been based at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, near the Black Sea Coast in Romania, to support the Romanian Air Force’s Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) to conduct the mission, known as Operation Biloxi.
The Typhoons of RAF Lossiemouth-based Number IX (Bomber) Squadron, one of the longest and continuously serving squadrons in the RAF, launched nine times against suspect aircraft during the deployment.
In addition to the QRA scramble, 121 EAW trained with the Air Defence Exercise with Nato warships, Close Air Support with land forces and Air Combat Training with other Nato air forces.
In June, they joined the German Air Force’s 71st (Richthofen) Wing to “further the interoperability” of the two nations’ Typhoon fleets and took part in a joint training scramble which was the first of its kind.
The 121 EAW also conducted air combat training with the US Marine Corps and RAF over the Black Sea and took part in activities for Romanian Air Force and Aviation Day, Romanian Navy Day and Ukrainian Independence Day.
Collaborating with allies
Around 150 personnel, known as the RCAF Air Task Force Romania, will be operating six CF-188 Hornet. These fighter aircrafts come from the 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron and are usually based at Cold Lake Base in Alberta, Canada.
The Canadian operation name for its participation in the Nato Air Policing missions is Operation Reassurance, which the Canadian Armed Forces has deployed to six times in the past – most recently when 408 Squadron deployed to Romania in 2017.
Lieutenant Colonel Corey Mask, commander of ATF Romania, said: “We are happy to return to Romania once again, collaborating with our allies in the Romanian Air Force, as well as our other NATO partners in the region.”
Recognition of work
The Romanian Air Force Emblem of Honour is given to selected foreign military personnel who have “impeccably” fulfilled their mission.
Towards the end of the deployment, the chief of the Romanian Air Force staff presented the award to seven RAF personnel.
Warrant Officer Class Two Karl Murley, of the royal engineers, said: ““I’m very humbled to receive such an award which shows the work carried out on Op Biloxi has not gone unnoticed, and I couldn’t ask for more to show the appreciation of our efforts”.
Fellow award recipient Flight Sergeant Ailsa McDermott, the chief clerk, said: “I’m extremely grateful to receive the Emblem of Honour from the Romanian Chief of the Air Staff.
“The Romanian people have been very welcoming and accommodating during our time here; and I hope we continue to build on that relationship with future years of Op Biloxi.”
‘Stepped up and delivered’
The deployment was not “straightforward” according to Commanding Officer of 121 EAW, Wg Cdr Stephen Lamping.
He said: “This deployment has not been straightforward, with the initial phases significantly constrained by Covid and the recovery to the UK heavily impacted by the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“However, I am proud to say that the personnel of 121 EAW have stepped up and delivered, both in the air and on the ground.
“Working with the Romanian Air Force and wider regional allies we have proven our commitment to Nato and enhanced stability in the Black Sea Region.”
Group Captain Chris Layden, RAF Lossiemouth station commander, added: “I’m delighted to welcome IX(B) Sqn back from their very busy and successful tour in Romania.
“This was their first operational deployment as a Typhoon squadron, and the whole Station is proud of what they achieved, standing shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies to help preserve security in a vitally important region.”