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Portuguese BAP detachment rotates staff and commander

Story based on information provided by 2Lt André Pires, Portuguese Air Force

After routinely rotating the majority of its staff in early June, the Portuguese detachment leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, has seen a rotation at the command level, too. At the helm of the detachment since the beginning of the mission in early May, the outgoing commander, Lieutenant Colonel Francisco Dionísio, handed over the detachment to Lieutenant Colonel Afonso Gaiolas, who will be in charge until the end of July.

On 13 June, Lieutenant Colonel Gaiolas officially assumed command of the detachment responsible for leading the BAP mission ensuring safety and security in the skies over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Portuguese F-16 detachment is augmented in this mission by the United Kingdom flying Eurofighter Typhoon jets out of Amari Air Base in Estonia. The 41st rotation of this routine Allied peacetime mission will close at the end of August 2016

Thanking his predecessor for the exceptional way he led the detachment and underlining the commitment and team spirit of all Portuguese military, Lieutenant Colonel Gaiolas said, "I am proud to assume command of the detachment, to continue the excellent work and the outstanding cooperation with the host nation in support of this very relevant NATO mission.”

Rotating staff during a deployment regularly occurs to ensure a maximum of pilots, maintainers, logisticians and air controllers of an air force can hone their operational capabilities on an Allied mission abroad. The staff who arrived in early June come from various areas of expertise of the Portuguese Air Force and are now carrying on with their mission.

The Portuguese BAP detachment at Šiauliai Air Base consists of four F-16M aircraft and 89 airmen from across the Portuguese Air Force who are on alert 24/7 ready to launch under the control of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany and the Baltic Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava, Lithuania.

NATO’s air policing mission in the Baltics started in 2004 after the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the Alliance. Since the Baltic States do not have their own assets to accomplish the peacetime mission of policing the skies, 17 Allies have taken turns in providing this capability for them. Since early 2014, under NATO’s assurance measures, Allied interceptors in an augmenting role have also been deployed to Amari, Estonia, further underlining Allied solidarity and presence in the region.

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