On January 21 Commander of the 54th rotation of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states Colonel Antonio Di Matteo met with Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Base Lieutenant Colonel Antanas Matutis.
Col Antonio Di Matteo bid farewell and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the smooth coordination and control of the NATO Air Policing Mission throughout his rotation. Commander of Šiauliai Air Base thanked the outgoing officer for his excellent performance and for having provide security to the Lithuanian and Baltic airspace. Col Antonio Di Matteo gifted to the Airbase the Madonna di Loreto statuette that had been protecting his airmen throughout the mission and wished the holy blessing to be with the soldiers of the Airbase and all the Air Force.
The 54th NATO Air Policing Mission rotation deployed and started conducting the mission in September. It handed over the mission continuing in 2021 and led from Šiauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force to the 55th rotation formed by the Italian Air Force too. Augmentation of the mission is provided by Germany from the Amari Airbase of the Estonian Air Force.
Italian and German crews conducting the mission are also training with Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and other allies deployed in region.
The NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states has been conducted continuously since 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO. The mission was enhanced in 2014 as a result of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Fighter aircraft deployed by NATO allies are held on high alert to scramble and intercept Russian fighter jets that frequently approach the Baltic airspace and do not respect international rules of aviation safety.
Photo and information credits: Lithuanian Air Force