Belgium, Canada and Germany take up NATO air policing duties
Starting in September, Belgian and German fighter aircraft will take responsibility for patrolling the skies as part of NATO’s Baltic air-policing mission. Operating out of Siauliai airbase in Lithuania, four Belgian F-16s will lead the mission, with four German Eurofighter aircraft supporting them out of Ämari airbase in Estonia. The detachments replace French, Portuguese and Spanish air force units which have patrolled the Baltic region since May 2018.
NATO's air policing mission in the Baltics was launched in 2004 after Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined the alliance. Since then, Allies have taken turns to guard the skies over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as the three Baltic countries do not have their own fighter aircraft. “This is a clear example of Alliance solidarity in action”, NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said. “In recent years, we have seen a considerable increase in Russian military air activity along the borders of NATO Allies in the region. NATO aircraft take to the skies when aircraft do not follow a flight plan or do not speak to air traffic control. We are always vigilant”.
Also from September, the Canadian air force will conduct air patrols alongside the Romanian Air Force over the Black Sea. The Canadian contingent replaces the a detachment of UK Royal Air Force jets which have been conducting the mission since April. During the deployment, the Royal Air Force conducted eight scrambles in response to a total of 20 Russian aircraft flying near Romanian airspace.