VILNIUS - The Polish Armed Forces have taken over the command of the NATO Baltic air policing mission on Thursday.
After four months of guarding the Baltic skies, the Belgian Air Force detachment handed over the mission to a Polish Air Force detachment with four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft during a ceremony at the Lithuanian Air Force Air Base in Siauliai. The German Air Force will provide the augmentation to this rotation of five Eurofighter Typhoons to be flown from Estonia.
It is the 8th time the Polish Air Force is deploying rotation of the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states.
During the changeover ceremony, Lithuanian Minister of National Defense Raimundas Karoblis said the NATO air policing mission is not only a proof of allied solidarity but "tt should also be a part of the air defense mission", to ensure stability, stronger deterrence, and swift response to security threats in the region.
Commander of the Allied Air Command General Tod Wolters thanked Lithuania for having seamlessly rendered host nation support for 15 years already to the NATO air policing sission in the Baltic states and stressed that "for almost 70 years our great NATO Alliance has provided collective security in the transatlantic area, during these decades Air Power has been and will continue to be the key capability package for NATO to provide collective defense, deterrence and security to all its Allies."
NATO has been conducting the air policing mission in the allied countries that do not have their own fighter aircraft since 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became members of NATO. Over this time, 17 allies have already been protecting the Baltic airspace which is done 24/7.
Poland’s first contribution flew the Baltic skies in 2005 with MiG-29 Fulcum fighter aircraft, further rotations used F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets.
Poland, one of the most active participants of the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states, is planned to send another air policing detachment in 2020.