RIGA - Since NATO fighter jets were deployed in northern Lithuania to patrol the Baltic states' skies this past spring, no further violations of Latvian air space have been reported.
Juris Dalbins, the Latvian Parliament's defense and interior committee chairman, said that prior to NATO' patrol of Baltic airspace, there were frequent territorial violations by neighboring countries. Russian military craft, especially, had been known to illegally cross into Baltic airspace on a fairly regular basis.
Dalbins says that NATO fighter jets now patrol the Baltic skies 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and it is in Latvia's interest that this standard is upheld.
He added that, in the future, NATO member states may no longer patrol the Baltic skies in rotation. Instead, an agreement could be reached with a specific NATO member country to patrol the area. The three small Baltic states currently do not have an air force sufficient enough to patrol their own air space.
However, the Latvian MP said that Latvia is already working to modernize the Lielvarde airstrip in central Latvia, which could become a regional center for Baltic air control. Significant investments are planned for the air base over the next decade to facilitate NATO forces working in the region.
The Baltic state's air space is being patrolled by Tornado fighter jets from the U.K., which are based at the Zokniai airstrip in northern Lithuania.