ÄMARI, Estonia – Spanish F-18 fighter aircraft took over NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission from German Eurofighter jets at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, in a ceremony on May 3 attended by senior civilian and military representatives from Estonia, Germany, Spain and other Allies.
Brigadier General Burkhard Kollmann, Deputy Commander of NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany, officially transferred the mission of augmenting Air Policing nation to the incoming nation. "I would like to welcome the Spanish Air Force for their fourth deployment under Baltic Air Policing; this is the first time, our Spanish colleagues bring their F-18s to Ämari to patrol the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania safeguarding Allied airspace in the region 24/7," General Kollmann said. "Thank you for rising to the task."
He then thanked Germany for having provided Eurofighter aircraft to the mission for a double-deployment of eight months. "This has been the ninth time my comrades contributed to this important Allied peacetime mission showcasing Alliance cohesion," he said. "You have done a great job, very professionally demonstrating the high training and skill level of our NATO airmen." German Eurofighters will return to Estonia for an eight-month deployment towards the end of 2018 and stay until May 2019.
General Kollmann eventually underlined the host nation's central role in the mission saying "Estonia has provided their Air Base for the augmenting nations continuously since 2014. You have delivered host nation support expertly in a most competent way."
Until the end of August, the Spanish F-18 fighter jets from Zaragoza Air Base in Spain are going to be deployed at Ämari air base to fly sorties controlled by CAOC Uedem. Together with Poland, that took over as lead nation on May 2 with F-16 jets out of Siauliai, Lithuania, they will safeguard the skies of the three Baltic States.
The Baltic Air Policing mission is a symbol for NATO solidarity, unity and resolve. Seventeen Allies have participated in this regional form of NATO's peacetime air policing mission that started in the spring of 2004.
More pictures from the event can be found here
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office