On January 7, 2016, Spain and Belgium
officially assumed responsibility for NATO's Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission in
two ceremonies at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, and Ämari Air Base, Estonia, in the presence of representatives from
military and civilian authorities from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Hungary, and
Siauliai Air Base, the Hungarian detachment commander, LtCol Tamas Fekete
hands over the key to the Baltic Air Space to the Spanish contingent
commander, Lt Col Juan Antonio Ballesta Miñarro. Photo by Antanas Gedrinas.
Hungary successfully completed what was
their first deployment under NATO's standing mission ensuring safety of the
skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with their JAS-39 Gripen jets.
For the Lithuanian Vice Minister of
National Defence, Mr. Marijus Velička the Baltic Air Policing
Mission is a brilliant example of NATO credibility and solidarity. "This fortieth
handover ceremony reminds us that the Alliance is a truly effective
organization," he said before he thanked the Hungarian detachment and extended
a warm welcome to the incoming Spanish contingent.
For the next four months, the Spanish Air
Force will have four of their Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Albacete Air Base deployed
at Šiauliai accomplishing the BAP lead nation role.
The Spanish Chief of Defence, Admiral
General Fernando García Sánchez, reiterated the importance of the mission. "The
Spanish contribution to this mission for the third time proves our commitment
to our NATO allies," says Spanish Detachment Commander, Lt Col Juan Antonio BALLESTA
Meanwhile at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, the augmenting nations'
responsibility was transferred from Germany to Belgium. The Defence Minister of
Estonia, Mr Hannes Hanso who presided over the ceremony said, "the Baltic Air
Policing mission sends a strong message about the continuing and lasting unity
of the Allies."
Impression of the Baltic Air Policing augmenting nation handover ceremony. Photo
courtesy Estonian Defence Forces
Germany –five times BAP lead nation – will
now redeploy their Eurofighter Typhoon jets after augmenting the NATO mission
for the second time out of Ämari. The task was handed over to four Belgian F-16
fighters from Kleine Brogel Air Base.
"For Belgium, this is the second deployment
as an augmenting nation after taking an extended seven-month rotation from
January to August 2015," said the Belgian detachment Commander Captain Davy
Blancquaert. Belgium was the first nation to provide fighters under the BAP
rotational plan back in March 2004, commencing the success story of NATO BAP.
Their airmen and aircraft also executed the mission in 2006 and 2013.
The Baltic Air Policing mission illustrates
the Alliance's ability to share and pool existing capabilities. Since it has been executed continuously ever
takes its responsibility to ensure safety of its Allies' airspace very
seriously – when an aircraft flies close to or enters NATO members' airspace
without prior coordination or planning, both commercial and military air
traffic could be placed in danger. NATO jets routinely identify, intercept, and
escort such planes as a precautionary measure.
has an appropriate and adequate capability to ensure a single standard of
security within all Allies' airspace.
More pictures can be found here: HQ Aircom on Flickr