VILNIUS - An exchange ceremony for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission in Lithuania took place at the Air Force Base in Lithuania's northern city of Siauliai as an incoming Hungarian Air Force detachment took over the lead from the Spanish airmen, while the Czech augmentation will carry out a consecutive two-month rotation, Lithuania's Ministry of National Defense said.
"We live in turbulent times. The aggressor continues to wage war against democratic Ukraine and violate the rules-based international order. We are grateful to Spain whose Air Force has deployed here with double the usual number of fighter jets, which was both impressive and necessary," Lithuanian Deputy Minister of National Defense Vilius Semeska said during the ceremony.
Welcoming the incoming Hungarian troops, he wished them clear skies as they will guard the region for the upcoming four months.
It will be the 60th iteration of the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic states. It will be led by the Hungarian Air Force Detachment that deploys to Lithuania with four JJAS 39 GRIPEN fighter jets. It is going to be the third rotation of Hungary since the launch of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states (after 2015 and 2019).
The outgoing the Spanish Air Force troops were guarding the Baltic airspace with eight F-18s. The mission tasks were completed by approximately 200 military service members - pilots, technical, medical personnel, support teams, communications and other specialists.
The mission will be augmented by approximately 130 military personnel.
Augmentation of the NATO Air Policing Mission will be flown from the Amari Air Force Base in Estonia by the German Air Force with Eurofighter fighter aircraft while the enhancement of the mission conducted from the Polish Air Force base at Malbork will be ensured by the Italian Air Force with Eurofighter jets.
As Russia continues the war in Ukraine, NATO fighter aircraft are not only conducting alert scrambles in response to violations of international aviation rules committed by Russian aircraft in the international airspace over the Baltic Sea but also patrol the airspace border with Belarus and Russia as part of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states.