Meet Flight Lieutenant Quentin, a French fighter pilot protecting the Baltic skies
Flight Lieutenant Quentin is a fighter pilot with the French Air Force. Operating out of Amari base in Estonia, he safeguards the airspace of the Baltic countries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
© French Defence Staff
“I am part of the air policing mission, which consists in scrambling fighter jets whenever a suspicious aircraft is spotted and visuals checks are required to assess the situation”, explains Quentin. His work also consists in regular air combat training to be able to quickly take action if required.
The nature of the scramble depends on the aircraft available and the area of intervention; the goal is to reach the suspicious aircraft as quickly as possible. “If an aircraft does not meet a certain number of criteria that would help identify it and ascertain its intentions, we go and make sure it is not a threat”, he adds.
The Baltic countries, just like all the other NATO nations, have an airspace that they have to be able to protect. This requires being able to take appropriate action at any time and in any place. “The Baltic countries do not have the necessary means to police their own airspace”, says Quentin. “That’s where NATO steps in, providing that capability in the name of Allied solidarity”.
Since 2004, the air policing mission has been conducted by NATO’s member states on a rotating basis, with the objective of ensuring the integrity of the airspace over and near the three Baltic countries. Spain and the United Kingdom have been conducting the same mission as France since 1 May, for a period of 4 months, but from Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania.
A vital mission still going strong despite COVID-19
On board his Mirage 2000-F5, Quentin trains every day in preparation for challenging missions. When he is on standby, he lives close to the aircraft, just like the other pilot and the mechanics, ready to spring into action.
“To be operational abroad, two things are needed: deployable equipment, and support and assistance services from the host airbase”, Quentin explains. “In the current coronavirus crisis, we also had to make sure not to spread the virus in Estonia during our mission”. The team was thus placed in isolation in the two weeks leading up to the mission, and is complying with the measures imposed by the local authorities.
In total, the French detachment comprises four Mirages 2000-5F and one hundred personnel to operate them. This includes pilots, aircraft mechanics, but also logistics experts, IT experts, medical staff, security staff, firefighters and administrative staff.
Whenever he is not training or scrambling, Quentin has plenty of things to keep himself busy. “I do administrative work, I exercise, or I do other activities with the rest of the team, in strict compliance with the health and safety rules of course”.
But Quentin’s favourite activity is flying a fighter jet. “Moving around in the air like that makes you feel so free”, he explains. “My family knows my job is my passion and they are very happy that I can fulfil that passion every single day”.
In Estonia, Quentin has also been able to enjoy another one of his passions. “I play the piano, and when I arrived in Estonia, I was happy to see one in the hotel we are staying at. So sometimes, in between meals, when nobody is around, I go and play a little”, he says.
France, as a member of NATO, is playing a full role by taking part in the policing of the airspace of the Baltic countries. “I am proud to serve the public interest of my country by serving that of its Allies”, concludes Quentin.