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Dec 3 2019

Baltic Air Surveillance Network to Enhance NATO Air Posture

The scheduled re-structure of the Baltic Air Surveillance Network or BALTNET will see the activation of three national Control and Reporting Centres (CRC) in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This allows for improved capabilities and interoperability of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System in the region to help safeguard Allied airspace.

The three Baltic Allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have launched the cooperative project of the BALTNET future configuration to further enhance their air surveillance and control capabilities in the region and thus their contribution to NATO’s collective defence effort and architecture.

By establishing a CRC in each of our three countries, we are confident to markedly increase our capabilities to support NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission

“By establishing a CRC in each of our three countries, we achieve a joint and combined capable network. The individual functional units will eventually provide a more robust package for the region. We are confident and proud that this will markedly increase our capabilities especially as we contribute to controlling NATO aircraft in support of the Alliance’s Baltic Air Policing mission,” said Major Tõnis Pärn, senior Estonian officer at Baltic CRC Karmelava, one of the stakeholders in the project.

The site of the former Baltic Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava, Lithuania. Photo courtesy Lithuanian Air Force

“A before-and-after comparison clearly shows that we are moving from peacetime construct with just one joint Baltic CRC to the crisis-and-conflict-capable architecture of three Control and Reporting Points,” Major Pärn continued to say, “including back-up capabilities and clear responsibilities increasing support for Allies and enhancing our national skills in special fields such as surface-based air defence, integration of ground forces, intelligence and Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence. Our connections move from serial to parallel which avoids any potential single points of failure,” Major Pärn concluded.

The final concept foresees the establishment of three identical CRCs in Tallinn, Lielvarde and Karmelava tailored to national airspace surveillance. The system will allow assigning fighter controllers to Allied flying assets on a rotational basis among the three CRCs and enhance the data exchange with the NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Uedem, Germany and other entities of the Alliance, such as the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS).

Achievement of BALTNET: first NATO Baltic Air Policing detachment in Siauliai in 2004; first NATO enhanced Air Policing detachment in Amari; first Baltic Fighter Controller, Fighter Allocator and Master Controller; control of 1,000 A-scrambles, 5,000 T-scrambles, 2,000 training sorties equaling 9 months of control hours. Collage courtesy Estonian Air Force

“With a back-up capable regional air surveillance and control capability we are heading to provide better survivability, enhanced opportunities for future peacetime and defensive operations. At the same time advanced structures imply complexity and more responsibility that we will ensure through enhanced regional cooperation” said Colonel Dainius Guzas, Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force.

The BALTNET co-operation project was launched in 1998 as a system for acquisition, coordination, distribution and display of air surveillance data within the three Baltic States. Its objectives encompass international co-operation between civilian and military air traffic authorities and the development of the respective functions in all participating states. As such, BALTNET was a major stepping stone for helping to the Baltic States to contribute to and to integrate with NATO structures. Since 2004, when the Baltic States joined the Alliance, the system has been an integral component of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. Within this framework, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania established and jointly manned the CRC at Karmelava, Lithuania, which reported to CAOC at Uedem. This one centre will now be replaced by three national CRCs in the Baltic States. As a next step it is planned to equip these units with NATO’s Air Command and Control System (ACCS) Software Based Element to further improve capabilities and interoperability.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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