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Apr 11 2024

Spain, Portugal now securing the skies on Baltic Sea, first mission achieved

RAMSTEIN, Germany - Spanish and Portuguese Air Force fighter detachments are now at the helm for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing operating out of Šiauliai, Lithuania; within days, Spain conducted their first alert scramble. Both detachments will execute the mission until the end of July.

Spain and Portugal are integrating with the Baltic Allies’ air forces to ensure collective deterrence and defence in this part of NATO’s eastern flank

“We are proud to lead NATO’s enduring collective Air Policing mission here in the Baltics for the sixth time – and augmenting it out of Estonia four times,” said the Spanish Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Pablo Estrada. “This fact and our robust commitment to NATO Air Policing at home, our support to enhanced Air Policing in Bulgaria and Romania and the ongoing support with Surface-Based Missile Defence Systems – PATRIOT in Turkey and NASAMS in Latvia – showcase Spain’s strong commitment to NATO’s missions and collective security – in the south and in the north,” he added. Moreover, Spanish Eurofighters just joined NATO Air Shielding in Romania for a two-week Agile Combat Employment.

A Spanish F-18 fighter sits in a hangar at Šiauliai Air Base. NATO Baltic Air Policing is one of Spain's contribution to collective defence. Photo courtesy Spanish Air Force.

For four months the Spanish F-18 detachment will lead NATO's Baltic Air Policing out of Šiauliai Air Base. Photo courtesy Spanish Air Force.

Portuguese Air Force F-16s are augmenting the 65th rotation of NATO's Baltic Air Policing. Photo courtesy Portuguese Air Force.

For the seventh time, the Portuguese Air Force is safeguarding the Baltic skies with their F-16 fighter jets. Photo courtesy Portuguese Air Force.
The Spanish F-18 detachment is augmented by Portuguese Air Force F-16s detachment, who combine their forces under the 65th rotation of Baltic Air Policing at Šiauliai. 

“As one of the founding Allies of NATO it is an honour for Portugal to continue our support to this important mission in the 75th year since NATO was established – which happens to be the 20th year of the Baltic Air Policing mission, “said the Portuguese Detachment Commander Lieutenant Colonel Jose Dias. “This is the seventh time our F-16s are employed to safeguard the Baltic skies. Our aircrew and support personnel will once again demonstrate their professionalism and expertise during mission execution,” he added. Portugal has also been deployed in the scope of enhanced Air Policing and Assurance Measures in Romania and Iceland since 2014 underscoring cohesion and solidarity among NATO Allies.

Within days of arriving and taking over the mission on April 1, the two detachments showed they hit the ground running: The Spanish F-18 detachment, comprising jets and airmen from both 12th and 15th Wing launched for their first alert scramble on April 4, while the Portuguese F-16 pilots from Air Base 5 at Monte Real have already flown more than 40 hours practicing operational capabilities and improving interoperability with other NATO forces in the region.

In case of need, the controllers at NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, order the Allies from the Iberian Peninsula to launch within minutes to meet and identify Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea close to or approaching NATO territory.

Together with a German Eurofighter detachment in Latvia, a German Deployable Control and Reporting Centre in Estonia and the Spanish NASAMS detachments in Latvia and Lithuania, the Spanish and Portuguese fighter detachments are integrating with the Baltic Allies’ air forces to ensure collective deterrence and defence in this part of NATO’s eastern flank. The present posture is an example of NATO’s continued vigilance and 24/7 awareness in the region – through its recognized air picture – of potential threats or unsafe situations in the vicinity of its airspace.

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office based on input provided by the Spanish and Portuguese Air Forces

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