"Since we arrived here in early September, the roughly 120 women and men of my team from across the Italian Air Force have outstandingly and professionally executed the NATO mission patrolling the skies over the Allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania together with our German colleagues," said Italian Air Force Colonel Antonio Di Matteo, Commander of the Italian detachment at Šiauliai.
Our pilots have successfully provided collective defence and deterrence by safeguarding the Baltic Airspace
"The readiness and capability of the detachment is reflected in our track record," he continued to say. "So far our pilots have successfully flown almost 20 missions in our Quick Reaction Alert Interceptor aircraft providing collective defence and deterrence by safeguarding the Baltic Airspace," he added.
The Italian Eurofighter pilots fly their sorties under the overall control of NATO's Northern Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem. The three Baltic Control and Reporting Centres in Vilnius, Tallinn and Lielvarde control the missions at the tactical level and constantly provide radar data that contributes to the recognised air picture ensuring permanent awareness of the air situation in the region. While Italian ground crew, operators and support services ensured a 24/7 readiness of the fighter aircraft, the Lithuanian Host Nation supported the real-life requirements of the deployed unit.
"This truly collective operational effort is complemented by the high-value training activities we supported," said Colonel Di Matteo. "My team cooperated with the Allies and Partners in the Baltic area carrying out training missions with our German Eurofighter colleagues, flying Close Air Support sorties for the Forward Air Controllers from NATO's enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroups in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and supporting training missions with naval assets in the Baltic Sea. Our work enabled us to increase the integration and cooperation with our NATO Allies and contributed to maintaining regional security," he added.
Executing the mission in a disciplined way and complying with strict anti-COVID-19 measures has not only protected our people, but also protected our Baltic Allies
"I am really proud of the way my detachment are operating far from home. Only as a team, sharing common values with our NATO Allies, we can succeed," said Colonel Di Matteo. "I am also impressed by the way the Italian and Lithuanian teams have ensured our important Allied missions continues in this unique situation worldwide due to the coronavirus. Executing the mission in a disciplined way and complying with strict anti-COVID-19 measures has not only protected our people, but also allowed us to protect the Baltic Allies. We are ready to continue the mission into 2021", he concluded.