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Belgian F-16s guarding the Baltic Skies

Amari, Estonia - As from Tuesday 6 January 2016, a Belgian detachment has taken part in the 40th rotation of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission with four F-16s fighter jets flying out of Ämari Air Base, Estonia. The Belgian crew comprised of 50 experienced service members and their airplanes will stand alert around the clock, seven days a week until the end of April.

It’s the fifth time since 2004 – Belgium being the first Ally to start the Baltic Air Policing mission – that aircraft from the Belgian Air Component are deployed to guard the Baltic skies against unauthorized overflights. During previous rotations Belgian F-16s operated out of Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania and Malbork Air Base in Poland. This time their temporary home base is Ämari in Estonia.

Belgian Detachment Commander, Captain Davy ‘Blanky’ Blancquaert, in his F-16 fighter aircraft getting ready for a scramble under NATO’s Baltic Air Policing detachment.
- Photo courtesy Belgian Air Force

"The aircraft flew in from the Belgian air bases Florennes and Kleine Brogel on 4 January,” said Captain Davy ‘Blanky’ Blancquaert, Detachment Commander at Ämari. "Upon our arrival in Estonia some harsh winter conditions with freezing temperatures and lots of snow provided a challenging setting. However, both aircraft and crew adapted well and proved they are always ready.” On several occasion they successfully executed training missions as well as some real scrambles intercepting Russian aircraft flying in international airspace at the Baltic borders.
A Belgian F-16 fighter aircraft on full afterburner viewed from a shelter at Ämari Air Base, Estonia. - Photo courtesy Belgian Air Force

NATO’s Air Policing across the airspace of all Allies is a purely defensive activity preserving the integrity of that airspace. It is an important confidence building measure to demonstrate Alliance solidarity and resolve.

Story by Belgian Air Force Detachment at Ämari Air Base, Estonia

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