Spain, UK and France to patrol airspace over the Baltic states

Spain, UK and France to patrol airspace over the Baltic states

A Spanish Air Force Detachment will lead the 53rd NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states augmented by the British Royal Air Force and the French Air Force for the next four months, May through August.

On April 30 the Belgian Royal Air Component Detachment handed over the NATO Air Policing Mission to the incoming Spanish Air Force Detachment with six F-18 Hornet fighter aircraft the British Royal Air Force Detachment enhancing the mission with three Eurofighter Typhoons after safeguarding the Baltic airspace for 8 months, i.e., two consecutive rotations. The mission will be enhanced by the French Air Force with four Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft from Estonia, making it the total of 13 NATO fighter jets guarding the Baltic airspace through the summer.

"I pay respect on behalf of Lithuania to the Air Component of the Belgian Royal Defence Forces for the efforts to keep the Baltic airspace safe at this time that is so tense to al of us," Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Colonel Dainius Guzas said at the formal hand over - take over ceremony. The Belgian Air Component Detachment conducted two rotations of the NATO Air Policing Mission from Šiauliai in a row, four month, in total, with four F-16 fighter jets.

Commander of the Belgian detachment handed over the symbolic key to the Baltic airspace to the commanders of the incoming Spanish and British rotations and wished them strength and good health in their mission in the Baltics. Spain deployed its seventh rotation of the mission and the United Kingdom will guard the Baltic airspace for the sixth time.

Detachments of NATO allies are kept on high alert throughout the NATO Air Policing Mission rotations to be ready to respond to any suspicious activity near the Alliance's borders.

The NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission was introduced in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia when the three countries became members of the Alliance in 2004. The mission was enhanced as a result of the Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014. NATO fighter aircraft safeguarding the Baltic airspace carry out numerous alert scrambles to intercept Russian fighter jets approaching the Baltic airspace, frequently without observing the international rules of safe aviation. Last year approx. 200 alert scrambles were carried out while completing mission tasks.

Photo credits: Antanas Gedrimas, Lithuanian Air Force Base