Baltic Air Policing
Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon (bottom) escorts Russian Air Force Su-27 Flanker (top) over the Baltic Sea in June 2014
Location
Date30 March 2004 – present
Executed byNATO
OutcomeOngoing

The Baltic air-policing mission is a NATO air defence Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in order to guard the airspace above the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.[1]

Mission

Ämari and Zokniai air bases in the Baltic states.

Within the Alliance, preserving airspace integrity is conducted as a collective task jointly and collectively using fighter aircraft for air policing. Air policing is a purely defensive mission. Since the 1970s, NATO has established a comprehensive system of air surveillance and airspace management means, as well as Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) assets for intercepts (QRA(I)) provided by its member nations.

By means of radar sites, remote data transmission, Control and Reporting Centres (CRCs) and Combined Air Operations Centres (CAOCs) the Alliance ensures constant surveillance and control of its assigned airspace 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. NATO exploits these facilities to react within seconds to air traffic incidents in the Allies’ airspace. This structure of weapon systems, control centres and procedures is referred to as the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS). NATINADS has been and remains one cornerstone of Alliance solidarity and cohesion.

The responsible Allied Air Headquarters are at Izmir, Turkey and Ramstein, Germany. The dividing line is the Alps. The Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein’s air area of responsibility is divided in two Air Policing Areas (APAs):

NATO members without their own Air Policing assets are assisted by other NATO members. Luxembourg is covered by interceptors from Belgium, Slovenia is covered by the Italian Air Force and Albania is covered by Italian and Greek aircraft.[3]

Since March 2004, when the Baltic States joined NATO, the 24/7 task of policing the airspace of the Baltic States was conducted on a three-month rotation from Zokniai Air Base in Lithuania and, starting from 2014, at the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia. Starting with the Turkish deployment, rotations changed to a four-month basis. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel.

To ensure Air Policing performance is conducted in a safe and professional way, adequate training was and still is required, as NATO member nations deploy their assets to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, on a rotational basis. To standardize training across nations, Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein introduced a series of training events formerly called Baltic Region Training Events, now referred to as Ramstein Alloy Home to capitalize on experienced aircrews deployed to Šiauliai and to offer superior training for Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian air forces and control facilities.[4] The three host nations contributed €2.2 million in 2011 to cover the deployment expenses and are supposed to contribute €3.5 million yearly by 2015. In 2012, the Alliance allocated €7 million for Šiauliai airfield modernisation from the Security Investment Programme.[5]

Two French Mirage 2000s during a Baltic Air Policing deployment in 2010

Hungary performed the mission for the first time in 2015.[6] Italy carried out the mission in January–April 2015,[7] with 14 members having participated in Baltic Air Policing so far.

In 2013, the Baltic patrol was called in when the Swedish Air Force was unable to respond to a simulated attack by Russian bombers against Stockholm.[8]

During the 2014 Crimean crisis, the U.S. Air Force deployed six F-15C Eagle fighter jets from US-run Lakenheath air base in eastern England to the Lithuanian Air Force Base near Šiauliai.[9][10] These aircraft will augment the present mission comprising four U.S. F-15C Eagle aircraft. The U.S. heightened its NATO presence to increase the strength of the Baltic Air Policing mission. Another two U.S. KC-135 aerial refuelling aircraft brought aircraft service personnel.[11]

In May 2014, NATO established its second air base in Estonia's Ämari near Tallinn, beginning with a Danish deployment.[12] In May 2014, Polish Air Force units at Malbork Air Base were reinforced by the French Air Force.[13][14]

In January 2022, due to the massing of Russian military forces along its border with Ukraine; American and Danish fighter jets were deployed to the NATO Baltic Air Policing detachments in Estonia and Lithuania, respectively, to provide enhanced air policing (eAP) over the Baltic States.[15][16]

According to a former staff member of the National Defence University of Finland, the Baltic air bases are untenable in a war scenario as they lack hardened aircraft shelters, which make them vulnerable to attack.[17] Also, Russia operates long-range SAMs in Kaliningrad, Pskov and Leningrad Oblast, which might severely hamper or stop air operations from the area.[17]

In May 2023, the Latvian Minister of Defence, Ināra Mūrniece, announced that NATO fighter jets will be temporarily stationed at Lielvārde Air Base during the spring to autumn of 2024 whilst Ämari Air Base undergoes reconstruction work.[18]

Deployments

LT-LV-EE Baltic Air Policing medal bar
Starting date[19] Country Air force Aircraft Based in Reference
30 March 2004  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [20][21]
1 July 2004  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [22]
30 October 2004  United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Panavia Tornado F.3 Šiauliai, Lithuania [23][24]
1 January 2005  Norway Royal Norwegian Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [25]
30 March 2005  Netherlands Royal Netherlands Air Force 4x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [26]
30 June 2005  Germany German Air Force 4 x F-4F Phantom II Šiauliai, Lithuania [27]
12 October 2005  United States  United States Air Force 4 x F-16CJ Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [28]
1 January 2006  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [29]
31 March 2006  Turkey Turkish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [30]
1 August 2006  Spain Spanish Air Force 3 x Mirage F1M Šiauliai, Lithuania [30][31]
1 December 2006  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [32]
1 April 2007  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000C Šiauliai, Lithuania [33]
1 August 2007  Romania Romanian Air Force 4 x MiG-21 Lancer 'C' Šiauliai, Lithuania [34]
1 November 2007  Portugal Portuguese Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [35][36]
16 December 2007  Norway Royal Norwegian Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [37]
15 March 2008  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [38]
30 June 2008  Germany German Air Force 4 x F-4F Phantom II Šiauliai, Lithuania [39]
30 September 2008  United States  United States Air Force 4 x F-15C Eagle Šiauliai, Lithuania [40]
2 January 2009  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [41]
1 May 2009  Czech Republic Czech Air Force 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [42]
1 September 2009  Germany Bundeswehrkreuz (Iron Cross) German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [43]
3 November 2009  Germany Bundeswehrkreuz (Iron Cross) German Air Force 4 x F-4F Phantom II Šiauliai, Lithuania [44]
4 January 2010  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000C Šiauliai, Lithuania [45]
1 May 2010  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [46]
1 September 2010  United States  United States Air Force 4 x F-15C Eagle Šiauliai, Lithuania [47]
5 January 2011  Germany Bundeswehrkreuz (Iron Cross) German Air Force 6 x F-4F Phantom II Šiauliai, Lithuania [44]
28 April 2011  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000C Šiauliai, Lithuania [48][49]
2 September 2011  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [50][51]
4 January 2012  Germany Bundeswehrkreuz (Iron Cross) German Air Force 6 x F-4F Phantom II Šiauliai, Lithuania [52][53]
26 April 2012  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [54]
1 September 2012  Czech Republic Czech Air Force 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [55]
3 January 2013  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [56]
30 April 2013  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage F1CR Šiauliai, Lithuania [57][58]
3 September 2013  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [59][60][61]
3 January 2014  United States  United States Air Force 4 x F-15C Eagle Šiauliai, Lithuania [62]
1 May 2014  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [63]
 United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [63]
 Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [63]
 France French Air Force 4 x Dassault Rafale Malbork, Poland [63]
1 September 2014  Portugal Portuguese Air Force 6 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [64]
 Canada  Royal Canadian Air Force 4 x CF-188 Hornet Šiauliai, Lithuania [64]
 Germany German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [64]
 Netherlands Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16AM Fighting Falcon Malbork, Poland [64]
1 January 2015  Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [65]
2 January 2015  Spain Spanish Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [66]
5 January 2015  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x MiG-29A Šiauliai, Lithuania [65]
7 January 2015  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Malbork, Poland [67]
1 May 2015  Norway Royal Norwegian Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [68]
 Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [68][69]
 United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [68]
 Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Malbork, Poland [68]
25 August 2015  Germany German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [70]
31 August 2015  Hungary Hungarian Air Force emblem Hungarian Air Force Roundel of Hungary 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [71]
7 January 2016  Spain Spanish Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [72]
 Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [72]
28 April 2016  United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [73]
4 May 2016  Portugal Portuguese Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [74]
31 August 2016  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000-5F Šiauliai, Lithuania [75]
 Germany German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [76]
5 January 2017  Netherlands Royal Netherlands Air Force |4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [77]
 Germany German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [78]
2 May 2017  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [79]
3 May 2017  Spain Spanish Air Force 5 x EF-18 Hornet Ämari, Estonia [80]
30 August 2017  United States  United States Air Force 4 x F-15C Eagle Šiauliai, Lithuania [81]
5 September 2017  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [82]
8 January 2018  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [83]
10 January 2018  Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [84]
2 May 2018  Portugal Portuguese Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [85]
 Spain Spanish Air Force 6 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [85]
3 May 2018  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000-5F Ämari, Estonia [86]
30 August 2018  Germany German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [87]
31 August 2018  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [88]
3 January 2019  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [89][90]
1 May 2019  Hungary Hungarian Air Force emblem Hungarian Air Force Roundel of Hungary 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [91]
 Spain Spanish Air Force 5 x EF-18 Hornet Šiauliai, Lithuania [91]
 United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [91]
3 September 2019  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [92][93]
 Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [92][94]
 Czech Republic Czech Air Force 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Ämari, Estonia [92][95]
2 January 2020  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [96][97]
30 April 2020  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000-5F Ämari, Estonia [98][99]
1 May 2020  United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [100][101]
 Spain Spanish Air Force 6 x EF-18 Hornet Šiauliai, Lithuania [102][103]
15 July 2020  Germany German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons Šiauliai, Lithuania [104]
31 August 2020  Germany German Air Force 6 x Eurofighter Typhoons Ämari, Estonia [105][106]
4 September 2020  Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [107][108]
30 April 2021  Italy Italian Air Force 4 x F-35A Lightning II Ämari, Estonia [109]
30 April 2021  Spain Spanish Air Force 7 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [110]
May 2021  Turkey Turkish Air Force 4 x Lockheed Martin F-16 Malbork, Poland [111]
31 August 2021  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [112]
 Portugal Portuguese Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon
15 September 2021  Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [113]
30 November 2021  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [114]
1 December 2021  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [115]
26 January 2022  United States  United States Air Force 6 x F-15E Eagle [116]
29 January 2022  Denmark Royal Danish Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [117][118]
13 March 2022  France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000-5F Ämari, Estonia [119][120]
1 April 2022  Czech Republic Czech Air Force 5 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [121]
 Spain Spanish Air Force 8 x EF-18 Hornet Šiauliai, Lithuania [122]
1 August 2022  Hungary Hungarian Air Force emblem Hungarian Air Force Roundel of Hungary 4 x JAS 39C Gripen Šiauliai, Lithuania [123]
 Germany German Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoons Ämari, Estonia [123]
 Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Malbork, Poland [123][124]
1 October 2022  Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [125][126]
6 October 2022  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 6 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [127]
1 December 2022  France French Air Force 4 x Dassault Rafale Šiauliai, Lithuania [128][129]
1 February 2023  Netherlands Royal Netherlands Air Force 8 x F-35A Lightning II Malbork, Poland [130]
1 March 2023  United Kingdom  Royal Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [131][132]
31 March 2023  Portugal Portuguese Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [133]
 Romania Romanian Air Force 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [134][135]
3 August 2023  Spain Spanish Air Force 8 x Eurofighter Typhoon Ämari, Estonia [136][137]
 Italy Italian Air Force 4 x Eurofighter Typhoon Šiauliai, Lithuania [138][137]


30 November 2023  Belgium Belgium Belgian Air Component 4 x F-16AM Fighting Falcon Šiauliai, Lithuania [139][140]
 France French Air Force 4 x Mirage 2000-5F Šiauliai, Lithuania [141][142]
 Poland  Polish Air Force 4 x F-16C Fighting Falcon Ämari, Estonia [143][144]
1 March 2024  Germany German Air Force 5 x Eurofighter Typhoons Lielvārde, Latvia [145][146]

Accidents

Gallery

See also

References

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55°53′38″N 23°23′42″E / 55.8939°N 23.3950°E / 55.8939; 23.3950