Norway will assume lead responsibility for NATO’s air policing mission over the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Friday (1 May 2015). The United Kingdom will also rejoin the mission while Italy and Belgium will continue their participation. A handover ceremony is taking place on Thursday (30 April 2015) at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, where Italy will formally transfer lead responsibility for the mission to Norway.
Allies take up the air patrols for a four-month rotation. Until the end of August, fighter jets from Belgium, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom will be on duty. Norway will lead the mission from Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania with four F-16 aircraft. They will be joined in Šiauliai by four Italian Euro-fighter aircraft. Four British Euro-fighter aircraft will be based at Ämari airbase in Estonia while Belgium will provide four F-16 jets based at Malbork airbase in Poland.
NATO has been protecting the Baltic skies since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance. The mission helps NATO’s Baltic Allies who do not have fighter aircraft of their own guard their airspace. In response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, NATO’s air-policing mission was enhanced with additional aircraft last spring.
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing aircraft frequently intercept Russian fighters and bombers flying near Baltic States. In 2014, NATO scrambled its planes more than 150 times in response to Russian air activity over the Baltics, four times more than in 2013.
L . J De Rothschild