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NATO rotates Baltic air policing mission

02 May 2017
The Polish Air Force has assumed the lead for the NATO Baltic air policing mission, with four F-16Cs flying out of Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. These are supported by five Spanish Hornet fighters based at Amari in Estonia. Source: Siauliai Air Base

NATO has rotated its Baltic policing (BAP) mission, with Polish and Spanish air force contingents arriving at Siauliai in Lithuania and Amari in Estonia respectively.

On 1 May four Polish Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16C Fighting Falcons took over the lead for the BAP mission from four Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AMs that had been flying out of Siauliai Air Base since January, on the same day that five Spanish Air Force Boeing F/A-18 Hornets replaced four German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons at Amari Air Base. The two detachments will remain in-situ through to September.

In 2014 the BAP mission was expanded by NATO in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine. "It will be like this for the foreseeable future, barring anything drastic happening with the situation in Ukraine," Colonel Jaak Tarien, chief of the Estonian Air Force, told Jane's in 2015. "In an ideal world we would like to see Russia as a normal democracy, so we wouldn't need to take these special defensive measures, but I can't see that happening for the next 10 years at least."

The NATO BAP mission is part of a wider enhanced air policing mission that includes the recently constituted southern air policing mission based in Romania, as well as similar missions that cover Albania, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Iceland, and Slovenia.

Controlled by Headquarters Air Command (HQ AIRCOM), located in Ramstein, Germany, the enhanced air policing missions are directed by one of two combined air operation centres (CAOCs). Those missions based north of an imaginary line that transects Europe along the Alps are directed by the CAOC at Uedem in Germany, while those located south of this line (including the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea) are directed by the CAOC at Torrejon in Spain.

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