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Update – Ukraine conflict: NATO shores up enhanced Air Policing mission

A pair of USAF F-35As arrive in Romania on 24 February as part of a wider shoring up of the NATO eAP mission. (US Air Force)

NATO members have increased the number of aircraft committed to the alliance's enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission following Russia's further invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

With the current already reinforced eAP mission comprising combat aircraft from Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States, additional aircraft have been sent by Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and the US.

“Over 100 allied fighters and enabling aircraft are already patrolling our skies and securing NATO's eastern borders 24/7,” the NATO Allied Air Command said on 26 February. “Together with land and maritime forces of the rapidly deployable NATO Response Force the alliance has activated, we are ready to further protect allies.”

NATO operates several air policing missions within its wider eAP construct, with the Baltic and Southern Air Policing missions being the two chief efforts geared at countering Russia in the east and the Icelandic mission doing the same in the north.

The Baltic mission comprises four Polish Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons, four Belgian Air Component F-16s and four Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) F-16s in Lithuania and Estonia, and six US Air Force (USAF) Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles operating out of Poland. The USAF has now also forward-deployed six Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters that had recently arrived at Royal Air Force (RAF) Lakenheath in the UK.

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