Pictures: F-35 jets protect the Baltic air space for the first time

The Italian Air Force has deployed four F-35A Lightning II jets to Ämari Air Base in Estonia; this is the first time one of the most advanced combat aircraft are serving as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission.

The four Italian Air Force F-35A jets replace the German Air Force’s four Eurofighter aircraft, deployed to Ämari Air Base since August 2020.

F-35s have landed in Estonia before – in 2017, two US Air Force F-35As, deployed to the UK, flew from RAF Lakenheath to Ämari for a short visit. But this is the first time the stealth aircraft have been deployed as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission.

One of the most capable fighter jets in the world

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a US-designed single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft that is intended to perform both air superiority and strike missions. It is also able to provide electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.

One of the most advanced and capable fighter jets in the world, F-35 first entered service with the US in 2015. It has since started serving also in the air forces of the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, Norway, Israel, Japan and South Korea – while Denmark, Singapore, Belgium and Poland have also committed to purchase the aircraft.

Baltic Air Policing

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have an airborne air defence capability of their own. Therefore, the protection is provided by NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission whereby more powerful allies deploy their jets to Baltic states in intervals usually lasting half a year.

Since the mission’s establishment in 2004, Belgium, Denmark, the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, Germany, the US, Poland, Turkey, Spain, France, Romania, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Canada, Italy and Hungary have deployed their aircraft to either Estonia’s Ämari or Lithuania’s Šiauliai air bases.

Cover and the galleries: The Italian Air Force has deployed four F-35A Lightning II jets to Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Photos by Sigrid Paula Pukk and Artur Zahharov, Estonian Defence Forces.

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