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Augmenting Baltic Air Policing Nations hand over responsibility

On April 28, 2016 Belgium officially handed over its augmenting role in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission to the United Kingdom during a ceremony at Ämari Air Base, Estonia. On May 4, Spain is going to hand over the BAP lead to Portugal at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania.

The Belgian Air Force has effectively completed the sixth deployment of their F-16 fighters under NATO BAP. They were the first to start this NATO mission back in April 2004.

"Our deployment here has been very successful,” said the Belgian detachment Commander Major Laurent David. "Deployed to this strategic position at the north eastern edge of NATO airspace we have executed a lot of live and training missions. These have enabled all my detachment staff to gain valuable experience. The Estonians have been wonderful hosts, who were most cooperative; their support immensely contributed to our mission success.”

Four Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft flew in to Ämari Air Base to take over the augmenting role from the Belgian jets. This is the fourth time the United Kingdom has provided assets to the BAP effort. RAF jets were the third NATO nation to execute the BAP from October 2004 to January 2005 and they supported the mission as an augmenting nation in 2014 and 2015.

"We are delighted to be here at Ämari to secure NATO skies in Europe’s east,” said Wing Commander Gordon Melville, Commanding Officer of 140 Expeditionary Air Wing, the RAF detachment. "We are looking forward to working with our fantastic Estonian hosts to make sure we have the best possible chance of achieving all of our operational and training aims.” About 150 RAF pilots, maintenance crews, support staff and controllers will be stationed at Ämari with their jets until end of August.

NATO’s Baltic Air Policing started in April 2004 and has been executed continuously ever since. So far, 17 NATO nations have participated in this mission, which is overseen by Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany. Under the peacetime task of Air Policing, NATO jets may be launched in response to military and civilian aircraft that approach NATO member countries airspace or do not fly in compliance with international civilian aviation regulations.

"Our Air Policing mission above the Baltic States illustrates the ability of the Alliance to share and pool existing capabilities,” said Air Commodore Jayne Millington, HQ AIRCOM Deputy Chief of Staff for Support. "We take our responsibility very seriously and NATO is committed to ensuring safety of Allies’ airspace. The Alliance has an appropriate and adequate capability to ensure a single standard of security within all Allies’ airspace.”

Since April 2014, Ämari Air Base has been continuously hosting jets from Denmark, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Belgium as augmenting nations to NATO BAP mission ensuring professional Host Nation Support for these detachments.

On behalf of the Estonian Minister of Defence, Mr. Jonatan Vseviov, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence reminded the audience that NATO’s BAP shows that solidarity among Allies is not just expressed in words. "Actions speak louder than words; they are highly important in today’s security environment. The presence of NATO forces sends a strong signal that the Alliance is able to adapt to the new security environment.”

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