The 40th rotation of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission will take place on 7 January in Lithuania and Estonia as responsibility for the mission will be transferred from Hungary and Germany to Spain and Belgium.
Spain will lead the Baltic Air Policing mission for the first four months of 2016 with four Eurofighter Typhoon jets based in Šiauliai, Lithuania. Four Belgian F-16 fighter jets will be based at the Ämari airbase in Estonia.
Allies take up the air patrols for a four-month rotation. Germany and Hungary had been patrolling the airspace over the Baltic countries since September.
The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004 to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own. The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft traveling to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.
NATO allies protect their airspace on a 24/7 basis.
Cover: Pair of Belgian Air Force’s F-16 flying to Estonia (Photo by Jurgen Braekevelt/Belgian Defence Forces).