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Baltic Air Policing augmenting nations pass baton at Ämari, Estonia

For the third time this year, the task of augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission was handed over at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, today. In a ceremony attended by senior civilian and military guests the British Royal Air Force passed the baton to the German Air Force. The Minister of Defence of the Republic of Estonia, Mr. Hannes Hanso,  the Royal Air Force Typhoon Force Commander, Air Commodore Ian Duguid, the Chargé d’affairs of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to Estonia, Mr. Reinhard Wiemer, and the Commander of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Belgian Air Force Major General Thierry Dupont, represented their respective Nations and organisations. 

Four United Kingdom Typhoon Eurofighter jets are being replaced by German Eurofighter aircraft; the jets from Tactical Air Wing 74 at Neuburg are deployed to the Estonian air base the 42nd BAP rotation and will augment French Mirage 2000-5 jets leading the mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, where the task passed on the same day.

During the short ceremony, Minister of Defence Hanso underlined the relevance of this time-honoured example of solidarity among Allies saying: "I would like to remind us all that merely three years ago there were no Allied members rotating in Ämari and we lived in a different security environment. Let me assure you that your presence here is not taken for granted and it sends a strong signal that NATO is able to adapt to the new security environment and we are all united.  I am grateful for your contribution and the feeling of security – what is sometimes rather loud - you have provided to the NATO and people of Estonia. Actions speak louder than words." 

In the margins of the ceremony, the commanding officer of the Royal Air Force detachment, Wing Commander Gordon Melville said "I would like to offer the sincere thanks of the Royal Air Force to our Estonian hosts and Latvian and Lithuanian neighbours for the excellent support provided to us during this deployment, which has enabled the UK to successfully play our part in securing NATO's Baltic skies. Responding to more than 20 scrambles and approx. 40 aircraft intercepted, I congratulate my whole team and NATO colleagues on their teamwork and professional approach to this important mission.” 

The UK started executing its fourth BAP deployment in May, utilising Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter aircraft for the third time. Germany is assuring safety and security in the Baltic skies for the eighth time since inception of the mission in 2004; five times as the lead nation five times, three times as the augmenting nation.

"It's a pleasure to be back at Ämari again, feeling the warm welcome of the Estonian nation,” said the commander of the German Air Force detachment, Lieutenant Colonel Swen Jacob. "We're well prepared and ready to accomplish our mission.”

NATO’s Air Policing mission in the above the Baltic Sea started in 2004 with the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the Alliance. Since these Allies do not have the full range of Air Defence assets in their own militaries, other Allies take turns in providing fast jet assets to ensure a single standard of security within NATO’s Area of Responsibility.

"The handover-takeover ceremony of the Allies augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission is a great example of Alliance solidarity, and the Royal Air Force and the German Air Force have been dedicated to this principle;” said CAOC Uedem Commander Major General Dupont. Since the spring of 2014, Amari has provided excellent support to the augmenting BAP detachments. NATO, under its assurance measures, started to deploy additional assets underlining its resolve to continue the success story of maintaining the same level of safety and security across Allied airspace. As the representative from Allied Air Command and, at the same time, the Commander of CAOC Uedem, charged with BAP command and control, I am very pleased with the professional and strong-minded approach by all to implementing our common mission.”

Seventeen Allies have so far contributed to the mission which – just like NATO Air Policing in the rest of Alliance members’ airspace – is overseen by Headquarters Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) at Ramstein, Germany. With 24/7 command and control from the two CAOCs, AIRCOM launches scrambles within minutes in response to military and civilian aircraft that do not follow international flight regulations or approach NATO airspace.  The sole aim of Air Policing is to preserve and safeguard the integrity of NATO airspace.

Story by HQ AIRCOM Public Affairs Office

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