“The NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states, along with the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Groups, is a vital factor of deterrence and defence measures in the entire region,” Vice Minister of National Defence Vytautas Umbrasas said welcoming the Danish Air Contingent at the changeover ceremony of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission on January 8.
At the ceremony at the Šiauliai Lithuanian Air Force Base Vice Minister V.Umbrasas also thanked the outgoing U.S. Air Force contingent for the fifth U.S. rotation in the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.
Normally, four fighter aircraft are deployed in each, Lithuanian and Estonian mission bases. However, seven U.S. fighter jets were deployed to Šiauliai in September ahead of the Russian-Belarusian Exercise Zapad. U.S. participation in the NATO Mission in the Baltics demonstrates the staunch NATO commitment to ensure the security and stability of the Baltic states and integrity of the a NATO borders. This rotation was conducted with four U.S. F-15 Eagle fighters, the previous U.S. rotations were sent in 2005, 2008, 2010 in 2014.
The Danish rotation formed by personnel and equipment of the Fighter Wing Skrydstrup of the Danish Air Force landed in Lithuania on January 5. It is the sixth time Denmark is manning the mission, the previous rotations were deployed in 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013 to Šiauliai, and in 2014 to Amari Air Base, Estonia.
The outgoing U.S. Air Force Detachment with four F-15 Eagle fighters was the fifth rotation deployed to carry out the Mission by the United States of America (previous rotations took place in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014).
The ceremony was also attended by Commander of NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Major General Thierry Dupont, Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Colonel Dainius Guzas, mayor of Šiauliai City Artūras Vicockas, U.S. and Danish delegations, representatives of embassies, other guest.
17 NATO allies have already contributed since NATO began sending Air Policing Mission rotations to protect the Baltic airspace right after Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO on March 2004. The U.S. detachment carried out the 45th rotation of the mission since 2004. Three years ago the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states was augmented following the Russian annexation of Crimea.