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May 3 2021

German Eurofighters hand over NATO Air Policing mission as Italy starts first-time F-35 deployment

ÄMARI, Estonia – Bidding farewell to German Eurofighters after eight months on the mission, NATO and Estonia welcome Italian F-35s to the collective Air Policing mission in the region for the first time.

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With a German Eurofighter (left) and an Italian F-35 (right) as a backdrop, the two detachments were assembled to hand over the responsibility for NATO's enhanced Air Policing in the Baltic region with senior civilian and military representatives watching. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki
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Some of the senior military visitors who attended the ceremony - Lieutenant General Alberto Rosso, Italian Air Chief, Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer, Commander Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, General Jeff Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command and Lieutenant General Martin Herem, Estonian Chief of Defence (from left to right). Photo by Sebastian Spindler

On May 3, 2021, German Eurofighters, after a handover-takeover ceremony at Ämari Air Base, redeployed to their home base in Germany. The German Air Force had augmented NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission since September 2020. During the ceremony, the Estonian Minister of Defence, Mr. Kalle Laanet, and Commander Allied Air Command, General Jeffrey Harrigian, thanked the Eurofighter team of Lieutenant Colonel Sören Richter for accomplishing the mission and representing the Alliance in Estonia. Covering the 54th and 55th rotation, German Eurofighters scrambled almost three dozen times safeguarding the skies. 

A fantastic effort done again by a great team that time and time again delivers for the Alliance

"You once again demonstrated your readiness, your preparedness and ability to respond at a moment's notice," said General Harrigian. "You have deployed thirteen times to the Baltics - a fantastic effort done again by a great team that time and time again delivers for the Alliance," he added.

Lieutenant Colonel Richter handed over the responsibility at Ämari to his incoming Italian colleague, Colonel Vincenzo Sirico. General Harrigian acknowledged that Italy is the first Ally to deploy their F-35 fighter jets to NATO's Air Policing mission in the Baltic region. 

"It is great to have you here and to see you deployed with your F-35s," General Harrigan said. "You continue to lead the way with your ability to move F-35s from Italy and with each deployment the collective Alliance learns from you, learns from your professionalism, learns from you how you deliver this mission set with true quality," he concluded.

You continue to lead the way with your ability to move F-35s from Italy and with each deployment the collective Alliance learns from you how you deliver this mission set with true quality
Italy accomplished two rotations leading Baltic Air Policing at Siauliai, where the Eurofighter detachment handed over the lead to a Spanish Eurofighter detachment on April 29.
For the first time Italy flies the F-35, a fifth-generation versatile multi-role fighter aircraft, in the Baltic region. In 2019, Italy and, subsequently, Norway already deployed the F-35 to Iceland, where the jets conducted NATO Air Policing mission.


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General Harrigian thanked the outgoing German Eurofighter detachment and Host Nation Estonia and welcomed the incoming Italian F-35 detachment. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki
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An Italian Air Force F-35 outside the ceremony hangar at Ämari Air Base, which will be the temporary home for the Italian detachment for the upcoming four months as they preserve the integrity of the Baltic airspace. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki

Bringing the F-35 to an Allied high-tempo mission is another significant step toward integrating modern platforms into Allied Air Power. Both Allied Air Command and the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, are integrating the enhanced situational awareness and advanced avionics capabilities into NATO's Air Policing arrangements permitting to preserve NATO's technological edge in providing collective security to Allied populations.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

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