ŠIAULIAI, Lithuania - Since 2 January, the Polish Air Force detachment have been leading NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania; under the control of Combined Air Operations Centre in Uedem, Germany, the Polish F-16 pilots conducted almost 20 alert successfully intercepting multiple Russian aircraft which were operating over international waters close to NATO airspace off the Lithuanian coast without valid flight plans or operational squawk.
Besides these operational missions, the Polish F-16s also conducted several training missions practicing approaches on multiple airfields in the Baltic States and simulated intercepts in designated training areas in support of Lithuanian air traffic controller training.
"The members of the Polish detachment are making every possible effort to continue necessary training and further improve readiness to conduct NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission and to maintain growing friendship between our nations while participating in numerous national events and joint training," said Lieutenant Colonel Kalinowski.
In March, the Polish F-16s supported Lithuanian Air Force in an air-to-air photo event with a C-27 transport aircraft and three L-39 light fighter aircraft marking the 100th anniversary of the Lithuanian Air Force and the end of Lithuanian lease of their L-39 trainer jets.
At the end of March the members of the Polish Baltic Air Policing detachment participated in the ceremony commemorating the accession of Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Lithuania to the North Atlantic Alliance. An exhibition opened in the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania was devoted to NATO's presence in the country underlining the importance of the detached Allied forces in protecting the integrity of the Baltic countries' airspace. On 29 March, the Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis visited the Polish detachment at Šiauliai. The detachment commander, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Kalinowski, welcomed him and briefed him about the F-16 multi-purpose fighter aircraft capabilities and roles in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.
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Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Offices based on information provided by the Polish Air Force detachment