Italy ended its NATO Baltic Air Policing mission
Aug 28, 2015
By Task Force Air Šiauliai PAO, Maj Antonio CALIANDRO
Šiauliai, 27 Aug 2015 - Italy’s support to NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission, featuring under the name "Operation Frontiera Baltica” (Baltic Frontier), is at the closing stage.
On 27 August 2015, in the presence of numerous military and civilian authorities, the Italian Air Force detachment known as "Task Force Air Šiauliai”, ended its mission for NATO’s Air Policing in the skies above Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The ceremony took place in the Italian Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) area of Šiauliai Air Base – the "home base” of Italian Eurofighter "Typhoon” jets for the last eight months.
To accomplish this 24/7 peacetime task, the Italian Air Force had deployed at Šiauliai Air Base (Lithuania) four Eurofighter Typhoon fighters (coming from 4th Wing Grosseto and 36th Wing Gioia del Colle) and a team of around 100 military that covered every sensitive sector to be operative: from pilots to maintenance crew, from support personnel to infirmary, logistics and force protection.
Since 1 January to 30 April 2015 (as known as "block 37”) Italian Detachment operated as lead Nation and from 1 May until the end of August (as known as "block 38”) as augmenting Nation. This means that Italy is the first NATO Ally to have supported BAP mission for a full eight months in a row and the only NATO member to have performed all NATO Interim Air Policing (IAP) missions: Slovenia, Albania, Iceland and Baltics. In effect, the Italian Air Force has continued to assure, from own bases in Italy, the IAP over Slovenia 24/7 since 2004, over Albania since 2009 (sharing this duty with Greece) and conducted the NATO mission in Iceland in 2013.
To assure the security and integrity of the Baltic airspace, the operational Italian Unit has operated as Quick Reaction Alert – Interceptor (QRA-I) with two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft on permanent stand-by readiness, under the aegis of NATO’s Combined Air Operation Centre of Uedem (Germany) through the Control and Reporting Centre of Karmelava (Lithuania).
"During its deployment since last January, ITA-TFA has always applied the NATO concept train as you operate and operate as you train, flying nearly 900 hours in around 500 sorties, conducting around 40 real air intercept missions alongside 164 training missions” said the ITA-TFA detachment commander, Colonel Vito Cracas. "In the course of these flights, the Italian pilots on their NATO mission monitored the airspace and trained together with the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian fighter controllers on the ground”. Cracas continued "NATO Air Policing in general and this mission over the Baltic States in particular are a perfect example of how Italy demonstrates its commitment to NATO’s defence posture, contributing to NATO airspace safety and security back home as well as over those Allies that do not have their own Air Policing capabilities”.
The 38th block of NATO’s BAP mission has been led by four Norwegian F-16 fighters and augmented by four Italian Eurofighter Typhoon jets from Šiauliai Air Base, four Belgian F-16 fighters deployed at Malbork (Poland) and four British Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets deployed at Ämari (Estonia). The 39th rotation of the Allied mission is going to start on 1 September, when four Hungarian JAS-39 Gripen fighters will provide the lead in Siauliai, augmented by four German Eurofighter Typhoon jets in Ämari.