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MARI AIR BASE, Estonia – Belgium is taking part in the 40th rotation of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission with four F-16s fighter jets flying out of Ämari Air Base, Estonia.
This is the fifth time that the Belgian Air Component has been deployed to guard the Baltic skies against unauthorised overflights since 2004. During previous rotations Belgian F-16s operated out of Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania and Malbork Air Base in Poland. This time their temporary home base is Ämari, Estonia.
“The aircraft flew in from the Belgian air bases Florennes and Kleine Brogel on January 4,” said Captain Davy ‘Blanky’ Blancquaert, Detachment Commander at Ämari. “Upon our arrival in Estonia some harsh winter conditions with freezing temperatures and lots of snow provided a challenging setting. However, both aircraft and crew adapted well and proved they are always ready.”
On several occasions they successfully executed training missions as well as some real scrambles intercepting Russian aircraft flying in international airspace at the Baltic borders.
NATO’s Air Policing mission, across the airspace of all Allies, is a purely defensive activity preserving the integrity of that airspace, demonstrating Alliance solidarity and resolve.
It’s important to note that Belgium was the first Ally to start the Baltic Air Policing mission. Their current deployment, which began on January 6, is comprised of 50 experienced service members and their airplanes. They will return to their home base at the end of April.