ÄMARI, Estonia - Four Belgian Air Force F-16A-MLU fighter jets took over the augmenting role in NATO's Baltic Air Policing (BAP) from Spanish Air Force F-18 fighters during a ceremony on Tuesday, September 5, 2017.
The two Allied detachments lined up in front of two fighter jets and served as a backdrop for the handover of the mission in Ämari. During speeches, senior representatives from Estonia, NATO, Spain and Belgium underlined the importance of the mission for Alliance cohesion, resolve and readiness.
The Estonian Ministry of Defence was represented by the Undersecretary for Defence Policy, Mr. Kristian Prikk, who bid farewell to the Spanish detachment and welcomed the Belgian detachment. "NATO's presence in Estonia, and in the region, has never been as significant as it is now and your air policing activities are an indispensable part of NATO's visible presence and deterrence in the Eastern border of the Alliance," he added.
Since the start of BAP in 2004, NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, has been responsible for providing command and control for Allied fighter detachments as they safeguard the skies over the Baltics. The Commander of the CAOC, Major General Thierry Dupont, Belgian Air Force, represented the Alliance during the ceremony and said: "Collectively, we conduct the NATO Air Policing mission to ensure the integrity of Allies' airspace. This mission requires close coordination with civilian Air Traffic Management in order to detect, track, and identify aircraft operating in an unidentified, unusual, or unsafe manner." He added that NATO's well-trained and experienced aircrews take every precaution to minimise the chance of miscalculations and make air safety their top priority.
The Spanish Air Force successfully completed their fourth participation in the NATO mission in the Baltic. The Belgian Air Force was the first Ally to start the mission back in the spring of 2004 and is now providing their jets for the sixth time to safeguard the skies in the Baltic region.
On August 30, 2017, the United States Air Force assumed the lead of the BAP mission in Šiauliai, Lithaunia, with F-15C fighter jets.
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office
More photos from the event here