01/03/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/03/2019 07:41
'The NATO Air Policing Mission is not only a proof of allied solidarity. It should also be a part of the air defence mission in order to have stability, stronger deterrence, and swift response to security threats in the region,' Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said during a hand over-take over ceremony of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states on January 3.
During the ceremony held at the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai the lead of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states was transferred to the Polish Air Force that will patrol the Baltic airspace with four Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. Soldiers of the Belgian Air Force who had guarded NATO's eastern air border with F-16 fighter aircraft for four months handed over the symbolic key to the incoming rotation which will be augmented by the German Air Force detachment flying five Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft from Estonia.
Commander of the Allied Air Command General Tod D. Wolters thanked for having seamlessly rendered Host Nation Support for 15 years already to the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states and stressed that 'for almost 70 years our great NATO Alliance has provided collective security in the transatlantic area, during these decades Air Power has been and will continue to be the key capability package for NATO to provide collective defence, deterrence and security to all its Allies.'
Minister R. Karoblis thanked Gen T. Wolters for his special merit and personal contribution in further strengthening the Allied Air Force and improving the deterrence and defence of Baltic region and presented to him the National Defence System 'Medal of Merit'.
The NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission change-over ceremony was also attended by Chief of the Defence Staff Maj Gen Vitalijus Vaikšnoras, Deputy Commander of the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem Brigadier General Slawomir Zakowski , other representatives of the Ministry of National Defence and the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
Polish pilots landed their F-16s in Šiauliai on December 29. It is the 8th time the Polish Air Force is deploying rotation of the NATO Ari Policing Mission in the Baltic states. Poland's first contribution flew the Baltic skies in 2005 with MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter aircraft, further rotations used F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets. Poland, one of the most active participants of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states, is planned to send another air policing detachment in 2020.
Belgium was the first NATO ally to send its F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to guard the Baltic skies on 29 March 2004 thus beginning the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission. Since then the Air Component of the Kingdom of Belgium has deployed eight rotations so far.
The German Air Force strengthening the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states conducted from Estonia with four Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft is guarding the eastern air border of the Alliance for the ninth time.
NATO has been conducting the Air Policing Mission in the allied countries that do not have their own fighter aircraft since 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became members of NATO. Over this time, 17 allies have already been protecting the Baltic airspace which is done 24/7.
Review of the 2018 NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states
In 2018 the mission was conducted by air detachments of Denmark, Portugal and Belgium. Spain, France and Germany contributed to the augmentation of the mission launched four years ago when Russia seized Crimea.
Troops of Denmark deployed in the beginning of the year to conduct a four-month rotation which was their sixth time on the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states patrolled with four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft.
The 47th NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states was led by a Portuguese air detachment with four F-16 fighter jets. Spain augmented the rotation operating from Šiauliai with six Eurofighter Typhoons and France deployed an augmentation of four Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft to the Estonian Air Force Base in Amari.
Portugal was contributing to the mission for the fourth time; it was Spain's fifth and France's seventh contribution.
Photo credits: Alfredas Pliadis (MoD)