Poland Takes Lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing, Supported by Spain
(Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organization; issued May 02, 2017)
Polish air force F-16s (right) have replaced Dutch F-16s for NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania. They will be supported by Spanish air force F-18 Hornets. (Lithuania MoD photo)
Poland took the lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission on Tuesday (2 May 2017), succeeding the Royal Netherlands Air Force at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania. Spain will replace the German Air Force in supporting the mission from Estonia’s Ämari airbase.

The Polish Air Force will carry out the mission with four F-16 fighter aircraft, while the Spanish Air Force is deploying five F-18 fighter jets. Poland has now led the mission six times, while Spain is also a regular contributor.

Since 2004, seventeen Allies have participated in 44 rotations of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing. The mission is a standing peacetime activity, helping ensure the integrity of the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The next scheduled rotation is foreseen for September.

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Air Force Detachments Conducting the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic State Changed Over at Šiauliai Air Force Base
(Source: Lithuania Ministry of Defence; issued May 02, 2017)
Air force detachments deployed to Šiauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force to carry out air policing tasks in the Baltic states will rotated on May 2. After four months of air policing mission the Royal Netherlands Air Force Detachment handed over the task to the Polish Air Force Detachment with four F-16 Fighting Falcons. Polish pilots landed at Šiauliai Air Base with their F-16s on April 28.

The Polish Air Force will be contributing air assets and crews to the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission for the seventh time (after 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, and two rotations in 2014). Poland carried out the previous missions with MiG-29 Fulcum fighters but this rotation will fly F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The rotation ceremony at Šiauliai Air Base was attended by Vice Minister of National Defence Vytautas Umbrasas, Commander of the Royal Netherlands Air Force Lieutenant General Dennis Luyt, Brigadier General Dariusz Malinowski, Commander of the 2nd Tactical Wing, Polish Air Force, and NATO guests – Brigadier General Roberto Di Marco, and Commander of the NATO Force Integration Unit in Lithuania Colonel Jakob Sogard Larsen.

The outgoing Dutch shift of the Baltic Air Policing Mission were completing the task with four F-16 Fighting Falcons.

NATO allies began maintaining a rotating presence of air assets and crews to safeguard the Baltic airspace in 2004, upon the NATO accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. 17 NATO allies have deployed capabilities to carry out the mission since. The rotation Poland is taking over will be 44th since 2004.

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