On May 2 a hand over-take over ceremony will take place at the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission units – the leaving Polish air Force Detachment will transfer the lead of the mission to the incoming Hungarian Air Force Detachment. Augmentation to the mission conducted from Lithuania will be sent in by the Spanish Air Force.
It is a special rotation of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states – it is the 50th time the mission is conducted over the 15 Lithuania’s years in the Alliance. NATO has been providing Air Policing for the Baltic states which do not have suitable air capabilities of their own non-stop since 2004 – when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became members of the Alliance. 17 NATO members have conducted the mission already since then.
The Hungarian Air Force will deploy four JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft to the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai for the mission period. It is the second time since 2015 a Hungarian Air Force Detachment is in the lead of the NATO Air Policing Mission conducted from Lithuania.
Spain will deploy the augmentation of five F-18 fighter aircraft to Šiauliai Air Base. This is the sixth time Spain is contributing to the mission: in 2006 and 2016 the country had the lead of the mission in Lithuania, and in 2015, 2017, and 2018 it provided augmentations deployed to Estonia.
The Polish Air Force Detachment handing over after a four-month rotation were protecting the Baltic skies with four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. The mission was manned by approx. 130 soldiers – pilots, technical and medical personnel, supports teams, communications and other specialists.
Poland is one of the most active contributors to the air policing effort in the Baltic states. The country is planned to send another rotation as soon as in 2020.
While deployed in Lithuania, the Polish soldiers engaged with the community of Šiauliai, hosted tours of students and schoolchildren, took part in the town events, and the celebration of Lithuania 15th anniversary of NATO membership together with Lithuania colleagues.
The changeover ceremony is planned to be attended by Vice Minister of National Defence Vytautas Umbrasas, Commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces Training and Doctrine Command Brig Gen Gintautas Zenkevičius, foreign ambassadors, representatives of the three Baltic states’ Air Forces, representatives of the town of Šiauliai, and other guests.