For the fourth time this year, the task of augmenting NATO's BAP mission was handed over at Ämari Air Base, Estonia. In a ceremony attended by senior civilian and military guests the Italian Air Force passed the BAP mission to the Belgian Air Force.
I am very proud and touched to be here in Ämari today. I remember fondly 2004 when I was NATO's first Baltic Air Policing Detachment Commander at Šiauliai Air Base in neighbouring Lithuania
"I am very proud and touched to be here in Ämari today. I remember fondly 2004 when I was NATO's first Baltic Air Policing Detachment Commander at Šiauliai Air Base in neighbouring Lithuania," said Major General Harold van Pee, Commander of the Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem. "I am impressed to see how Air Policing in the three Baltic States has evolved and I applaud the constant expansion of NATO's capabilities," underlined the Belgian Air Force General.
The Belgian Air Force took lead at Ämari Air Base. The team has been a six-time lead nation since then and they have augmented Baltic Air Policing at Ämari twice. With their four F-16s at Ämari Air Base, Belgium will again support the Baltic Air Policing Mission. Both the 10th and 2nd Tactical Wings of the Belgian Air Force will be covering this period of support with a team of 60 people.
"It goes without saying that your mission is essential for the control and defence of Estonia's air space, but also to NATO's air space integrity," said Estonian Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence Mr. Kusti Salm. "We live in difficult times. There is an ongoing dangerous political gamble at NATO's borders, not far from here. It is clear that this is a hybrid attack where human beings are weaponized against our Allies and neighbours, " Salm added. "Such a crisis cannot be resolved with artillery, ships or warplanes, but we will not submit to blackmail. Your mission contributes to NATO's policy of deterrence, which prevents military conflict, "he concluded.
Safeguarding the integrity of Alliance members' sovereign airspace is a permanent peacetime task contributing to NATO's collective defence and provides support to civilian aircraft in distress. When they received a scramble order from NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, the Italian Eurofighters have always been ready to take 24/7; they launched within minutes, heading towards an unidentified aircraft to conduct routine response measures.