Belgian F-16s will soon end an eight-month deployment in support of NATO Air Policing and, subsequently, NATO enhanced Vigilance Activities in Estonia, NATO said Wednesday.
At the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, a detachment of Belgian F-16s was present in Estonia conducting enhanced Air Policing (eAP). In response to the changed security environment, NATO modified and extended their mission. The eAP role was taken over by France, whose Mirage 2000-5 fighters arrived in Estonia in April, and the Belgian detachment has since been executing the enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA) mission. At the request of NATO, Belgian F-16s have carried out scheduled patrols in key areas of Baltic airspace; this duty ends on August 1.
“We look back on a very successful time safeguarding the skies in the Baltic Region,” said Major (aviator) Nicolas Maes, Commander of the Belgian F-16 detachment at Ämari. “Success in two ways: for our pilots and support staff this has been a terrific experience in Allied interoperability, and the Belgian Air Force team has demonstrated their flexibility and professionalism in support of the Alliance,” he added.
The Belgian eVA detachment consists of 72 people in 24 different positions. In order to operate four F-16s, the expertise of 45 technicians is needed on site. Since the beginning of the eVA mission, Belgian F-16s have flown more than 340 sorties accumulating almost 850 flying hours in less than four months.
During their deployment, Belgian team took advantage of their presence in the Baltic States to participate in international exercises such as “Ramstein Alloy” and “BALTOPS”. The aim of these exercises was to strengthen the cooperation and integration of all Alliance nations in order to provide a uniform response and ensure the integrity of NATO airspace