April 26, formal rotation of contingent ceremony was held at the Lithuanian Air Force’s Šiauliai Air Base hosting the Baltic Air Policing mission. After four months on service German Air Contingent were replaced by a Polish air unit with four Mig-29 fighter jets.
“NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic States is small in scope but huge in meaning. It is evidence of NATO’s commitment to ensure security in the entire allied airspace”, said Vice Minister of National Defence VytautasUmbrasas. “Defence Minister of the Baltic States stressed in the meeting in Brussels several days ago the importance of solidarity in NATO, as well as the necessity to continue developing Smart Defence where countries pool capabilities to obtain economic benefit, therefore the mission is a splendid example of smart defence. Lithuania and other Baltic has undertaken and will continue increasing Host Nation Support to improve conditions for the countries deploying on the Baltic Air Policing mission.
Vice Minister V.Umbrasas thanked Commander of the German Air Contingent, pilots and troops for excellent service and wished luck to the incoming Polish personnel on behalf of the Ministry of National Defence and people of Lithuania.
Medals for Conducting the Baltic Air Policing Mission established by the Baltic countries were presented to the German troops for the first time in the history of the mission.
“The mission is a good example of cooperation among NATO countries,” commented the transfer of the mission from German to Polish military Ambassador of Poland in Lithuania HE JanuszSkolimowski.
The formal deployment ceremony was attended by Vice Minister of National Defence VytautasUmbrasas, Ambassador of Poland in Lithuania HE JanuszSkolimowski, Deputy Ambassador of Germany in Lithuania HE Maximilian Hurnaus, Defence Attaché of Germany in the Baltic States Lt Col Achim Wolfgang Neitzert, representatives of the German, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian Air Forces, administration and agencies of Šiauliai, and other guests.
Troops of Poland will be responsible for the Baltic Air Policing mission for the fourth time. The mission will include approximately 100 Polish troops from the 22nd Air Squadron of the Polish Air Force located at the Malbork Air Base. The contingent will be led by Lt Col LezsekBlach.
Polish personnel was deployed on the mission from January to March of 2006, from March to June of 2008 and from May to August of 2010. In all the deployments Polish air contingents used Mig-29 fighter-jets.
The first and the second missions were flown by the 1st Tactical Air Squadron “Warszawa” of the Polish Air Force based in Minsk-Mazoviecki. The third mission was conducted by the 41st Tactical Air Squadron Malbork.
NATO assumed responsibility for security in the Baltic airspace when the Baltic States entered the Alliance in March 2004. As long as the Baltic States do not own air assets necessary for conducting protection of national airspace independently, NATO allies rotate to guard the Baltic airspace with their troops and fighters from the Šiauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force.
This February the North Atlantic Council approved the Baltic Air Policing mission as long-term mandating it till 2018 instead of 2014 with a perspective of revision.
The Baltic Air Policing mission has been conducted by Belgian, Danish, Czech, UK, Spanish, US, Polish, Norwegian, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Romanian, Turkish, and German air forces. Fighter-jets guarding the Baltic airspace maintain high readiness to scramble or take disciplinary or other actions towards transgressors of the Baltic airspace.