SIAULIAI, Lithuania – Allied aircraft from Italy, Spain and Lithuania flew training missions above Lithuania on September 12, simulating close formation flight and aerial combat drills to demonstrate combined capabilities in support of NATO deterrence and defence.
A Lithuanian Air Force C-27 transport aircraft took off from Siauliai Air Base and conducted the training with Italian and Spanish Eurofighters to enhance pilot skills and readiness to execute combined missions.
Integrated and combined training events are an excellent opportunity for Allied aircrew and aircraft controllers
According to a NATO official at Allied Air Command at Ramstein, Germany, integrated and combined training events are an excellent opportunity for Allied aircrew and are also beneficial for aircraft controllers who make sure the training is conducted safely and professionally.
An Italian Eurofighter pilot in his cockpit during pre-flight preparartions. Photo by Giovanni Colla.
An Italian Eurofighter taxiing at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, during aerial drills on September 12, 2023. Photo by Giovanni Colla.
Two Italian Eurofighters simulating close formation flight and aerial combat drills above Lithuania on September 12, 2023. Photo by Giovanni Colla.
The Italian Eurofighters were joined by two Spanish Eurofighters which are augmenting the enduring NATO mission out of Ämari, Estonia. Photo by Daniele Faccioli.
Four Italian Eurofighters are presently deployed in Lithuania leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission securing the skies over the three Baltic Allies. During the training, two of the jets were joined by two Spanish Eurofighters which are augmenting the enduring Allied mission out of Ämari, Estonia.
“To us it is key that we regularly train in a combined – that is multinational – setting,” said Colonel Federico Sacco Maino, Commander of the Italian Eurofighter detachment at Šiauliai. “Our pilots gain a lot of experience during missions like the one conducted on September 12. The experience to work with our professional colleagues from Lithuania and Spain enhances our skills and showcases we are stronger together,” he added.
“What is important here is that our forces are training in an integrated multi-domain manner. We train as we fight to make sure we are ready to function when required,” said Lieutenant Colonel Luis Borque Torres, Commander of the Spanish Eurofighter detachment at Ämari.
Besides ensuring the territorial integrity of NATO airspace in the region and providing a 24/7 response capability, Italy and Spain make time for constant training. Drills are conducted not only with Lithuanian or other regional air forces, but also with Allied ground forces for example during Air-Land Integration manoeuvres with the deployed NATO enhanced Forward Presence battlegroups practicing Close Air Support with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
Since 2004, with Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian accession NATO, Allies have taken turns to safeguard the skies along the Baltic Sea with fighter aircraft deployments. Initially flying jets out of Šiauliai only, the Alliance – after Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014 – added Ämari, Estonia, as a second Air Policing base. In addition to the enduring Air Policing mission, NATO augmented its deterrence and defence posture after Russia’s war in Ukraine significantly increasing its presence along the eastern flank.