VILNIUS - Poland is taking over the lead of NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania and will be supported by the French Air Force which is sending in its most powerful fighter aircraft, the Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.
The Polish Air Force, which has been augmenting the Baltic air policing mission lately, is staying in Lithuania and taking over the lead role from Hungary with four F-16 fighter jets.
France is sending four Rafale fighter jets to Lithuania for the first time. The country will take part in the NATO mission in the Baltic countries for the ninth time.
The mission's changeover ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Lithuanian Armed Force's air base in Siauliai on Thursday.
The outgoing Hungarian detachment carried out the mission with four JAS-39 Grippen fighter jets. Around 150 troops, including pilots, technicians, medical personnel, support teams, communications and other specialists, were involved in the mission.
NATO member countries have taken turns safeguarding Baltic airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance back in 2004.