For the first time, the Czech Air Force is to guard the Estonian air space as part of the Baltic Air Policing Mission, taking over from the United Kingdom.
The Czech airmen arrived at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia on 2 September with their JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets. The JAS 39 Gripen is a light, single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace company, Saab.
The Czechs are going to guard the Baltic air space for four months, the Estonian Defence Forces said in a statement. The Czechs’ home base is located in Caslav, the Czech Republic.
At a ceremony held at the Ämari Air Base, the chief of staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, Martin Herem, awarded the leaving UK airmen the medals of the Baltic Air Policing Mission and thanked them for safeguarding the Baltic air space.
A desire to contribute
The Czech defence minister, Lubomir Metnar, said that the mission was very important for the country. “It’s not only about fulfilling a NATO membership duty, but also the desire to contribute to the defence of the eastern border of NATO and standing face-to-face with the dangers from outside of our borders,” he said, according to the statement.
The Baltic air-policing mission is a NATO air defence Quick Reaction Alert in order to guard the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The mission is based at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania, where on 3 September, the Belgian and Danish air forces took over the mission from the Hungarian and Spanish air forces.
Cover: JAS 39 Gripen of the Czech Air Force in Ämari. Courtesy of the Estonian Defence Forces.