SIAULIAI, Lithuania - The United States Air Force took over the lead of NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, from the Polish Air Force.
Dr. Vytautas Umbrasas, Vice Minister of National Defence, and United States Air Force General Tod D. Wolters, Commander of NATO's Allied Air Command and of United States Air Forces in Europe, presided over the official handover of the key to the Baltic airspace.
The US Air Force F-15C fighters are normally stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom. They will ensure the mission of safeguarding the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania together with Belgian Air Force F-16 jets at Ämari, Estonia. For the fifth time, the USA are showcasing Allied solidarity and the transatlantic link not only towards the Baltic Allies, but to all NATO members.
"Today our Allies' aircraft from Šiauliai and Amari are patrolling over the lands where Allied enhanced Forward Presence Battle Groups together with our national land forces are ready to counter aggression, and over Allied naval vessels that sail the Baltic Sea," said the Vice Minister of Defence. "We know that all of NATO stands alongside us in defence of our shared values and principles. The core principle 'one for all and all for one' is valid as ever."
General Wolters congratulated the Polish Detachment for "what you have been doing and what you are continuing to do." He also thanked the Lithuanian hosts for their hospitality and their commitment to the Alliance, saying "it underlines how much you value peace and prosperity". The General added: "As a NATO commander and a US citizen I am delighted to welcome the United States Detachment. What a great day to celebrate the handover of one of NATO's most important missions, protecting and securing the Baltic skies."
Since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, Allies have taken turns in safeguarding the Baltic airspace. Across NATO's European territory, Air Policing is a purely defensive mission ensuring the Alliance can react quickly and appropriately to any arising situation. Baltic Air Policing is an expression of Allies standing together, pooling their capabilities and ensuring the safety of the airspace and its users.
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office