RAF hands over NATO Air Policing to Luftwaffe at Ämari, Estonia

Aug 25, 2015

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.

"Our deployment 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.” 

Alliance solidarity 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 Šiauliai, Lithuania.”

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.

 

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