On October 6 Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen Valdemaras Rupšys visited the Italian Air Force detachment currently serving as the 54th rotation of the NATO Air Policing Mission since its introduction in the Baltic states.
"NATO has been ensuring that the Lithuanian airspace is protected for sixteen years now, it looks like we already accept it as a routine, got used to feeling safe under the Alliance umbrella and vigilant watch. However, NATO pilots are on standby day and night so that we could feel that way, they are scrambling to identify and escort non-NATO aircraft, ensuring deterrence, and operating highly sophisticated equipment that we, for now, cannot afford, unfortunately. And while they are on duty, we can develop and cherish our country in the safety of NATO space," Lt Gen Valdemaras Rupšys said after the visit.
Chief of Defence familiarised with the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft and their capabilities, as well as with the unique features and challenges of the air policing mission, while visiting with the Italian Air Force detachment. The pilots pointed out to Chief of Defence that they were also conducting combat training with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group alongside with the duty to patrol the airspace.
"The Italian Air Force pilots are true professionals and create an excellent synergy of the Baltic countries' airspace security and deterrence with their highly advanced air assets," Chief of Defence of Lithuania assessed.
Eurofighter Typhoons were fielded in Libya in 2011. The aircraft are developed and manufactured by four European countries and seven have them in their armed forces worldwide.
The NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states is currently led by Italy with a detachment that operates four Eurofighter Typhoon fighters. It has been deployed for two consecutive rotations, 8 months in total, since September at Šiauliai Airbase. The mission is augmented by Germany with six Eurofighter aircraft deployed to Amari Air Base in Estonia for two consecutive rotations as well.
This is the fourth time Italy and the twelfth time Germany are deploying air capabilities to protect the Baltic skies. Italian and German soldiers are also combining airspace patrolling tasks with joint training together with Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and other allies in the region.
The NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states has been carried out continuously since 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the NATO Alliance. It was augmented after the aggressive actions of Russia in Ukraine in 2014. Allied aircraft on duty with the NATO Air Policing Mission are scrambled to intercept military aircraft of the Russian Federation approaching the Baltic airspace that frequently violate rules of international aviation safety. NATO fighter jets have carried out more than 100 alert scrambles nine months into this year.
A continuous and effective coordination and control of the air policing mission over the Baltic states is ensured from the NATO headquarters in Ramstein and Mons and the required capabilities are deployed by NATO allies. NATO The continuous conduct of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states demonstrates NATO unity and allied resolve and collective defence and deterrence commitment.
Spokesperson for the Chief of Defence of Lithuania Maj Tomas Balkus
+370 5 278 5091, +370 682 25359, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: Lithuanian Armed Forces