As usual the ceremony was attended by high ranking civilian and military guests, amongst them Permanent Secretary of the Estonian Ministry of Defence, Mr. Kristjan Prikk, the Estonian Air Force’s Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Veiko-Vello Palm as well as the Commander of the Polish Air Operations Centre and Air component Command, Major General Dariusz Malinowski and the Czech Air Chief, Major General Petr Hromek. The Alliance was represented by the Deputy Commander of NATO’s Northern Combined Air Operations Centre, Brigadier General Pilot Sławomir Żakowski. In a speech addressing the distinguished guests as well as the Airmen from Poland and the Czech Republic, he said “I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the outgoing Air Mission personnel on a job well done.” Looking ahead at the beginning four month rotation he pointed out the Polish Air Force’s experience and professionalism. “The Polish Air Force has been a vital and experienced contributor to many NATO air missions” he stated.
The lead of the mission remains with a detachment of the Belgian Air Force which will stay at Šiauliai Airbase, Lithuania for a double rotation of eight months straight until April 2020. From August until December 2019 the mission was also augmented by a third detachment from the Royal Danish Air Force, also based at Šiauliai.
Baltic Air Policing is a regionally specific part of NATO’s Air Policing mission which preserves the integrity, safety and security of the airspace over all European NATO Allies. For NATO countries that don’t have the full set of own Air Policing capabilities, like the three Baltic States, Allies take turns providing these capabilities for them. All Air Policing is overseen by NATO’s Allied Air Command, headquartered at Ramstein Germany and controlled by one of NATO’s two Combined Air Operations Centres. The Combined Air Operations Centre responsible for all northern European NATO airspace, including the Baltics, is located at Uedem, Germany.