The deployment of four Typhoon multi-role fighters to Lithuania has a particular poignancy for an RAF Leuchars-based Squadron.
Its pilots are currently flying Quick Reaction Alert missions in the Baltic state and in World War Two the only Lithuanian to fly in the RAF flew with 1(Fighter) Squadron and was executed by the Gestapo on Hitler’s orders.
Having fled his homeland to fight with the Finns, Romualdas Marcinkus had already shot down several German fighters whilst serving with the French Air Force before he joined the RAF.
He then shot down another in his Hurricane before he too was downed whilst attacking the battleship Scharnhorst which was making a daylight dash through the English Channel.
Captured he was sent to Stalag Luft III where he became one of 76 servicemen to breakout during the ‘The Great Escape’. Sadly, Marcinkus, along with so many others, was recaptured and executed a few days later.
In April 2014, four RAF Typhoon multi-role fighter aircraft arrived at the former Soviet air base at Siauliai in central Lithuania ahead of a four-month deployment operating alongside the Polish Air Force to secure NATO airspace in the Baltic region.
Of is deployment to Lithuania, Flight Lieutenant Callum Smith said: “A few weeks ago we paraded our Squadron Standard at the site of the ‘Great Escape’ in memory of Romualdas Marcinkus. It’s a particular privilege therefore to be based here, providing reassurance to the population of Lithuania and the other Baltic states.
“We’ve been made to feel very welcome by both the Lithuanians and the Polish Air Force with whom we are operating here.”
Both Leuchars-based Typhoon squadrons have sent pilots and ground crew to Lithuania with the RAF Typhoon detachment being led by 3 Squadron from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.
“We’re doing here what we do at Leuchars, namely holding Quick Reaction Alert,” added Flt Lt Smith. “The only difference here is we are under sole NATO command and control.”
And the 1(F) Sqn pilot has every confidence in the capability of Typhoon:
“Typhoon is, in my opinion as a pilot, one of the strongest air-air fighters in the world today.
“It’s equally at home in a dog-fight as conducting an intercept at night in cloud; its capabilities allow us to do everything.”