VILNIUS - A detachment of the Hungarian Air Force is coming to Lithuania this week to take over the lead role of NATO's Baltic air policing mission from the Spanish Air Force, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
The mission's changeover ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Lithuanian Armed Force's air base in Siauliai on Friday, it said.
A detachment of the Czech Air Force, which has been augmenting the mission in Lithuania for some time now, is staying for another two months.
Hungary's JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft are returning to Siauliai for the third time after 2019 and 2015 to lead the 60th air policing rotation in the region.
The outgoing Spanish detachment carried out the mission with eight F-18 fighter jets. Around 200 troops, including pilots, technicians, medical personnel, support teams, communications and other specialists, were involved in the mission.
The 130-strong detachment of the Czech Air Force will continue its augmenting role with five JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.
The German Air Force will deploy its Eurofighter aircraft to the Estonian Air Force's air base in Amari, and the Italian Air Force will augment the mission with its Eurofighters from the Polish Air Force's base in Malbork.
NATO member countries have taken turns safeguarding Baltic airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance back in 2004.
As Russia continues its war in Ukraine, fighter jets deployed to the Baltic states as part of NATO's air policing mission have been recently not only conducting alert scrambles to intercept Russian military aircraft flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea in violation of international aviation flight rules, but have also been patrolling the airspace along the border with Russia and Belarus.