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NATO fighter jets continuous presence safeguards Baltic skies

RAMSTEIN, Germany - Throughout 2017, Baltic Air Policing, the collective task of providing fighter interceptor aircraft ready to react quickly to Baltic airspace violations and infringements, has been successfully conducted 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

To safeguard the integrity of all Alliance Airspace, Allies conduct Air Policing as a peacetime collective defence mission. When the Baltic States joined NATO in the spring of 2004, the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania became Allied airspace. However, since the three Baltic States do not have the necessary air capabilities to conduct peacetime Air Policing, an agreement was established to ensure the same standard of airspace security within SACEUR’s area of responsibility. Termed Baltic Air Policing, NATO Allies have, since 2004, continuously provided fighter jets to safeguard the airspace in the Baltic region. So far, 17 NATO nations have participated in the Baltic Air Policing mission.

The Allied jets that operate out of the Lithuanian Air Force Base at Šiauliai in the north west of the country are termed the Lead Nation.  In 2017, Lead Nations have been the Royal Netherlands Air Force (F-16s) handing over to the Polish Air Force (F-16s) in May who in turn handed on to the U.S. Air Force (F-15s) in September.

In 2014, in response to the Russian illegal annexation of Crimea, the Allies decided to introduce Assurance Measures to demonstrate the collective resolve and defensive nature of the Alliance and deter Russia from aggression or the threat of aggression against NATO Allies. Under these Assurance Measures, a second base for enhanced Air Policing was opened at Ämari, Estonia, and has since seen the continuous deployment of a second augmenting detachment of Allied fighter aircraft.  Augmenting Nations in 2017 have been the German Air Force, Luftwaffe (Eurofighters) handing over to the Spanish Air Force (F-18s) in May who in turn handed on to the Belgian Air Force (F-16s) in September.

NATO’s 24/7 Air Policing mission rests under the oversight and guidance of Allied Air Command while the mission is executed by the two Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) at Uedem, Germany, and Torrejon, Spain.  Air Policing scrambles respond to military and civilian aircraft in distress and/or that do not follow international flight regulations and approach Allies’ airspace.  Quick Reaction Air (Intercept) or QRA(I) fast jets are launched within minutes to visually identify aircraft and ascertain why International Flight regulations have not been followed.  The CAOCs monitor the whole operation and report to Allied Air Command where all information about intercepts is registered in the Air Policing and Reporting section.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs

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