NATO jets in Baltic launched on alert for first time
A twoship of Polish Air Force F-16 leave their shelter at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania to get airborne within minutes on their first alert scramble under NATO’s Baltic Air Policing misison. Photo: Michal Pataj, Polish Air Force
16 MAY 2017
ŠIAULIAI, Lithuania / ÄMARI, Estonia – NATO’s new Baltic Air Policing nations Poland and Spain launched their first alert scramble out of their bases in the Baltics on Monday, May 15, 2017. The sorties took place under the Allies’ 24/7 routine peacetime mission safeguarding the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
In both cases they were set off by the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, and the Control and Reporting Centres at Karmelava, Lithuania, to execute a visual identification of an unidentified aircraft.
The Polish F-16 fighter jets took off to in the afternoon of May 15 to fly into the skies over the Baltic Sea to identify an IL-20 reconnaissance aircraft while, more than an hour earlier, the Spanish F-18 fighters had identified an SU-24 fighter bomber; both identified aircraft are from the Russian Federation Air Force.
After return to the base at Ämari the Spanish Air Force team responsible for bringing the F-18 in the air lined up to mark a successful first alert scramble for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission. Photo courtesy Spanish Air Force
The Polish Air Force and the Spanish Air Force took over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission at Šiauliai, Lithuania, and Ämari, Estonia in early May. Since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, other Allies have taken turns providing fighter aircraft to safeguard the Baltic skies. This uninterrupted rotational presence of Allied air forces in the region ensures the same level of airspace protection across the Alliance and demonstrates solidarity and resolve.
AIRCOM’s Air Policing peacetime mission involves the use of the Air Surveillance and Control System, Air Command and Control and appropriate air assets, so called Quick Reaction Air (Interceptor) or QRA(I) fast jets. Air Policing scrambles respond to military and civilian aircraft that do not follow international flight regulations and approach Allies’ airspace.
L. J. De Rothschild