Tenth anniversary of NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Baltic States
NATO’s Commander of Allied Air Command (AIRCOM), together with the Lithuanian Minister of National Defence and the commanders of Belgian and United States air components, marked the 10th anniversary of NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Baltic States during a handover ceremony at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania on 3 January (2014).
Baltic Air Policing - Impressions from the Belgian Detachment - Photos: Courtesy Belgian Air Force, BAP PAO
For the past ten years, air forces from across NATO have been sharing the responsibility for patrolling the skies over their Baltic Allies, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This important mission not only protects the integrity of NATO airspace, it illustrates the Alliance’s core function of collective defence.
The United States took over air policing duties from Belgium during the ceremony. Allies take up the duties for a four-month rotation. General Frank Gorenc, the Commander of Allied Air Command and Commander of United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, joined the Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Juozas Olekas and Lieutenant General Claude Van De Voorde, Commander of the Belgian Air Component for the ceremony. "As the advocate for air power inside NATO I clearly understand the challenging nature of the NATO Air Policing mission," said General Gorenc. "The execution of this mission by different Allies to an exacting level of performance that we expect from NATO forces highlights the importance of bringing together personnel of the highest caliber. I would like to extend my congratulations to our Belgian colleagues who have just completed their rotation and I wish Godspeed to the United States Air Force team for the coming months."
Since March 2004, 14 NATO Allies have deployed a total of 34 contingents to ensure the integrity of the airspace above Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The mission has been executed by Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. Air Policing involves the joint and collective use of fighter aircraft to ensure a single standard of security within NATO’s Area of Responsibility. In order to achieve this goal, those Allies that do not have the necessary Air Policing assets of their own are assisted by others.