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Lithuania: Past And Future Of Šiauliai Air Base – OpEd

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Lithuania’s Šiauliai Air Base is one of the major airfields in the Baltics used by NATO. In 1931, an airfield was built specifically for Lithuanian Air Force. In 1940 the airfield was placed at the disposal of the Red Army.

After the Second World War, the airfield was expanded and specially transformed for the needs of Soviet aviation. In 1993, Russian troops were withdrawn from the territory of Lithuania. The airfield was partially re-equipped to receive civilian flights, but remained the basis of the Lithuanian Air Force.

In 2004, Lithuania joined NATO, and the Air Force of the Alliance were deployed at the airfield. The airfield is also used to refuel cargo and transit aircraft.

Since 2016, the NATO Support and Procurement Agency has been working at the design and implementation of projects at Siauliai Air Base. NSPA has completed 12 projects that include the restoration of five buildings, two aprons, one ramp area, one taxiway, two roads and one lighting infrastructure.

Apart from NSPA, the U.S. actively allocates funds for the modernization of airbase infrastructure.

Lithuania will have been finished the construction of passenger and cargo terminal with administrative premises, fire safety hangar, ammunition depot, aircraft engine test platform, two additional hangars for fighters maintaining Baltic Air Policing, reconstruction of aircraft parking platforms until 2023.

In general, it is expected that the expansion of the total airbase area by 33 hectares.

So, the current modernization allows U.S. deploying modern fifth generation fighters to Lithuania on permanent basis. According to the Lithuanian authority, U.S. military presence in the region remains to be one of the fundamental deterrents.

*Kasparas Jankauskas is a political journalist.

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