RAMSTEIN, Germany - In two ceremonies held at Šiauliai Airbase, Lithuania and at Ämari Airbase, Estonia on 2 May 2019 NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission was handed over to three succeeding detachments. The lead of the mission went from the detachment of the Polish Air Force, based at Šiauliai, to a detachment of the Hungarian Air Force. The augmenting role was taken over from the German detachment at Ämari by a detachment of the Royal Air Force. The upcoming four month rotation will additionally be augmented by a third detachment, also based at Šiauliai, sent by the Spanish Air Force. The ceremonies stood out from previous events as they highlighted three significant anniversaries for NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission.
With the beginning rotation the mission is entering its 15th year. In 2004, after the accession of the three Baltic States to the Alliance, a detachment of the Belgian Air Force under NATO Command and Control secured the skies over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for the first time. Since then 17 Allies have taken turns, nonstop extending NATO's single standard of airspace safety and security to the Baltics. "Today we are looking back on 15 years of proudly and successfully showcasing how NATO manages to stand in for its members, by safeguarding their territorial integrity, freedom and security, around the clock every day, all year long, wherever and whenever needed," said Lieutenant General Ruben Servert, Commander of NATO's southern Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejon, Spain during the ceremony at Šiauliai Airbase.
Furthermore the mission is entering its fifth year of augmentation from Ämari Airbase, Estonia. In 2014, under NATO's Assurance Measures for its Eastern members, following Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of the Crimean peninsula, an additional Air Policing detachment was established at Ämari. "For five years Estonia has been host nation for Air Force detachments from all across the Alliance, taking a great and important share of securing the NATO skies in the Baltics," Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer, Commander of NATO's northern Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany said at the ceremony in Ämari, complimenting Estonia's role as host nation for the mission.
Thirdly, with the takeover of the Hungarian, UK and Spanish detachments, the mission is entering its 50th rotation. All three milestones are occurring in conjunction with NATO's 70th anniversary, celebrating 70 years of providing freedom and security to all Alliance members. The 50th rotation is the Hungarian Air Force's second time contributing to the mission since 2015 and the Royal Air Force's fifth time, the third of which out of Ämari Airbase. The Spanish Air Force is contributing for the sixth time over all and for the third time out of Šiauliai Airbase.
Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office