RAMSTEIN, Germany - On Dec 1, 2022, during a ceremony at Šiauliai , the outgoing Hungarian Air Force detachment officially completed its deployment as lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission handing over the responsibility for the Baltic airspace to the incoming Polish Air Force detachment an augmenting French Air and Space Force detachment.
“The presence of NATO’s defensive air policing units along the eastern flank is more important than ever, demonstrating our resolve to collectively deter and defend against potential aggression,” said Air Marshal Johnny Stringer, Royal Air Force, who is the Allied Air Command Deputy Commander.
The presence of NATO’s defensive air policing units along the eastern flank is more important than ever, demonstrating our resolve to collectively deter and defend against potential aggression
The Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 Gripen detachment leaves Šiauliai after leading the Baltic Air Policing for the third time. Polish F-16 jets have been in place augmenting the mission since early November and will have the lead until the end of March 23. France – which usually deploys Mirage-2000 for this mission – flew in four of their Rafale jets; this type was last seen in Poland in 2014 enhancing the Air Policing mission in the country.
During the ceremony, the outgoing Hungarian detachment officially handed over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission to the incoming Polish and French detachments. Photo by Etat-Major des Armées.
The Lithuanian Air Chief, Colonel Antantas Matutis, presents awards to the outgoing Hungarian Detachment for their mission accomplishment. Photo by Antanas Gedrimas.
Commander of the incoming Polish Air Force F-16 detachment, Lieutenant Colonel Michał Kras during the ceremony. Photo by Antnas Gedrimas.
The French Air and Space Force detachment personnel during the ceremony; their Rafale fighter jets augment the Baltic Air Policing at Šiauliai. Photo by Etat-Major des Armées.
Meanwhile, a German Eurofighter detachment continues their mission out of Ämari, Estonia, into the next year, and in Poland, the outgoing Italian Eurofighter detachment will be replaced by another NATO fighter detachment that is arriving in early 2023.
“Allied Air Command oversees all Air Policing missions in the Baltic Region, Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea; these missions confirm how NATO stands together to provide security in a robust and collective manner,” Air Marshal Stringer added.
NATO started the Baltic Air Policing after the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the Alliance in 2004 with one fighter detachment stationed at Šiauliai on a rotational basis. In response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea – in 2014 – the Air Policing capability was enhanced by adding detachments to Estonia and Poland – again on a rotational basis to reassure the Allies. Since February 2022, the Alliance has increased its defensive posture on the eastern flank in addition to Air Policing.
“Allied Air Command and its two Combined Air Operation Centres, together with Allied air forces, have executed enhanced Vigilance Activities and Air Shielding operations in addition to Air Policing. We have utilised a range of capabilities to bolster the defence of NATO’s eastern flank, and we will continue to do so,” concluded Air Marshal Stringer.