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Jan 11 2024

Latvia prepares NATO Baltic Air Policing take-over

LIELVARDE, Latvia – Since January 9, Latvia has started to prepare for taking over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission. Due to runway works at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, the mission will move to Lielvarde from March to the end of November.

NATO Air Policing is one element of how the Alliance ensures its collective mission, and all Allies contribute to this legitimate effort to secure and safeguard its skies

The Latvian Air Base is getting ready to host 24/7 Air Policing operations, as German Eurofighters are scheduled to deploy to Lielvarde for nine months and fly alert and training scrambles from here. They are the first NATO jets stationed at Lielvarde for this mission. The German jets will conduct test flights and familiarize with the mission in February. Once certified by NATO, they will carry on with the collective mission and safeguard the Baltic Sea airspace together with other Allies that operate out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania.

While the focus of the German support of NATO Air Policing is on Lielvarde Air Base, Ämari Air Base will be used for a deployment of Germany’s Deployable Control and Reporting Centre which – from mid-March to the end of June 2024 – will augment NATO’s surveillance and control capability in the Baltic Sea region. During that time, German Air Traffic Controllers will be integrated into the Control and Reporting Centres in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Lielvarde Air Base will host NATO's Air Policing mission from March to the end of November 2024 and enable 24/7 readiness alert scrambles securing the skies in the Black Sea region. Photo courtesy Latvian Armed Forces.
From March to end of November, German Eurofighters will be the first NATO jets deployed at Lielvarde for the enduring 24/7 Air Policing mission in the Baltic Sea region. Archive photo by Dennis Sattler.
In 2017, Lievarde Air Base hosted exercise Ramstein Dust. For several weeks, a deployable NATO surveillance and control unit was integrated into Allied control arrangement out of Lielvarde. Archive photo by Kevin Lemee.
In a continuous process, Lielvarde Air Base capabilities were upgraded . The photo from 2017 shows national aircraft and ground equipment at the base. Archive Photo courtesy Latvian Armed Forces.
With the accession of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to the Alliance in 2004, NATO initially established an Air Policing capability for its Baltic Allies at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania.

In 2014 – following Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea – NATO activated Ämari Air Base, Estonia, as a second base for enhanced Air Policing in the region, and nine Allies have taken turns flying jets out of Estonia augmenting NATO’s standing Air Policing capability in the region

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale illegal war against Ukraine in February 2022, Allied fighter planes assigned to the Baltic Air Policing mission have also been launched for patrols along the borders with Russia and Belarus. Moreover, NATO reinforced its air defence posture on its eastern flank and increased its presence of ground troops and fighter jets to demonstrate its cohesion and commitment to collective security.

For 75 years, NATO has remained steadfast in its resolve to preserve peace, protect its citizens, defend every inch of its territory, and safeguard freedom and democracy. The Alliance has successfully evolved and adapted to the ever-changing security environment of the Euro-Atlantic area to ensure it is ready to defend against any aggressor at any time. NATO Air Policing is one element of how the Alliance ensures its collective mission, and all Allies contribute to this legitimate effort to secure and safeguard its skies.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on information provided by the Latvian Armed Forces

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