Starting in September, Belgian, Czech and Danish fighter aircraft will take up responsibility for patrolling the skies over the three Baltic countries as part of NATO’s air policing mission, NATO said.
The Belgian and Danish air forces will operate out of Siauliai airbase in Lithuania. They will be supported by four Czech Grippen aircraft out of Amari airbase in Estonia. The overall lead for the mission will be with the Belgian air force.
“This is a clear example of Alliance solidarity in action”, said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. “In recent years, we have seen a considerable increase in Russian military air activity along the borders of NATO Allies in the region. NATO aircraft routinely intercept Russian military aircraft that fly close to our borders, which are not following international air safety norms – such as filing flight plans and communicating air traffic control.”
She added that NATO forces in the region are always vigilant.
The three detachments replace Hungarian, British and Spanish air force units which have patrolled the region since May. NATO’s air policing mission in the Baltics was launched in 2004 after Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the alliance. Since then, Allies have taken turns to guard the skies over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as the three Baltic countries do not have their own fighter aircraft.
The central aim of NATO’s Baltic air-policing mission is to preserve and safeguard the integrity of NATO airspace.