TALLINN - In a ceremony at the Amari air base in northwestern Estonia on Wednesday, the German Air Force handed over responsibility for guarding the Baltic air space out of Amari to a contingent of the Spanish Air Force.
The chairman of the Riigikogu national defense committee, Hannes Hanso, said that air policing is one of many activities that help ensure the alliance's common security. "Unity and solidarity of allies are not just empty words. NATO functions well and is able to successfully respond to the changed security environment," the head of the parliamentary standing committee said according to spokespeople for the Estonian defense forces.
The contingent based at Amari is part of the 15th Wing of the Spanish Air Force based in Zaragoza and it uses F-18 Hornet jets to perform the mission, marking the first time that F-18 jets are used in Baltic air policing.
Originally created for the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps, F/A-18 Hornet is a carrier-capable multirole combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft. It is currently used by the armed forces of Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada and Australia, aside from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. The multiple roles that F-18 Hornet can perform include those of a fighter, attack aircraft, and a reconnaissance aircraft.
The NATO air policing mission was launched when the three Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia joined NATO in March of 2004. The air policing mission was extended indefinitely by NATO at the 2012 Chicago summit.