On 25 August, the British Royal Air Force detachment handed
over their role for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission to a German Air Force
detachment during a ceremony held at Ämari Air Base. The Estonian Minister of
Defence, Mr. Sven Mikser, the British Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia,
Mr. Christopher Bruce Holtby, the Chargé d’affaires of the German Embassy, Mr.
Reinhard Wiemer, the Commander of German Air Operations Command and NATO’s
Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Uedem, Lieutenant General Joachim Wundrak
and the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Riho
Terras were among the international audience attending the ceremony.
The 38th rotation of the mission was led by the
Norwegian Air Force with four F-16 jets based at Šiauliai, Lithuania. Italian
Eurofighter Typhoon planes were also stationed at Šiauliai and Belgian F-16
fighters flew out of Malbork, Poland. Since May 2015, the four Allies were
scrambled by CAOC Uedem for roughly 200 training and real-life intercepts on
behalf of NATO. In addition, more than 650 sorties were flown in support of
training activities to further hone Allied capabilities and interoperability.
has been a huge success,” said Wing Commander Stu Smiley, Officer Commanding
121 Expeditionary Air Wing, the RAF detachment at Ämari. "From a strategic
level the United Kingdom is keen to show that we, as a member of NATO,
participate in NATO operations and that we are supporting our allies in Baltic
Air Policing mission. The immeasurable support the Estonians provided
during our deployment was hugely professional. This has allowed the RAF to
operate with the smallest team but with maximum delivery. Beyond the mission,
my airman have forged excellent friendships.”
and presence is at the heart of the Baltic Air Policing mission, which started in April 2004 and has since been executed continuously rotating NATO
fighter capabilities for the Baltic Allies. This rotation is led by the
Hungarian Air Force, which will take over its role from Norway in a ceremony at
Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, on 31 August. Germany will be the augmenting
member of the 39th rotation of BAP here at Ämari.
Since May 2014, four British Royal Air Force (RAF)
Eurofighter Typhoon jets have augmented NATO’s BAP mission which is controlled
by CAOC Uedem and overseen by Headquarters Allied Air Command at Ramstein –
both located in Germany.
NATO Air Policing has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone
of Alliance solidarity and cohesion. Preserving the integrity of all Allies’ airspace
is a collective task. For member nations not having the full range of Air
Defence assets in their own militaries, agreements exist to ensure a single
standard of security within NATO’s Area of Responsibility.
"NATO remains committed to the defence of its member states
and will continue to perform the Air Policing mission across the Alliance and
specifically in the Baltic region,” said Lieutenant General Joachim Wundrak,
Commander German Air Operations Command who is also the commander of
NATO’s CAOC at Uedem. "This includes having ready and responsive Air Policing
assets available continuously in two strategic locations here at Ämari and at
The Alliance takes its
responsibility to ensure safety of its Allies’ airspace very seriously – when an
aircraft flies close to or enters NATO members’ airspace without prior
coordination or planning, both commercial and military air traffic could be
placed in danger. NATO jets routinely identify, intercept, and escort such planes
as a precautionary measure.