Portugal considers contributing to rotational air defense model – defense chief

  • 2023-06-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Portugal is considering contributing to a rotational air defense model agreed by NATO defense ministers, General Jose Nunes da Fonseca, the country's chief of defense, said in Vilnius on Tuesday.  

"The new rotational model is a good tool and we are enhancing and evaluating the value of this model," Nunes da Fonseca told reporters. 

"I think it is a good evolution of what we have been doing as NATO nations is this Baltic area and the minister of defense of Portugal and the Portuguese Armed Forces are evaluating this possibility to evolve in this subject," the general said. 

"We understand that if there is something to be changed, it will be changed for the better and, of course, count on the Portuguese Armed Forces for these efforts and for these evolutions," he added. 

Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas has said that the model "sets out the principles by which countries will be able to allocate ground-based air defense and aviation capabilities, starting with NATO's eastern flank". 

"Lithuania has done the homework and will provide favorable conditions for the implementation of the rotational air defense model, such as infrastructure, host nation support, personnel," he said in a press release earlier this month. 

Lithuania and the other Baltic countries have been pushing for some time for NATO to beef up air defense capabilities in the region, saying that this would allow upgrading the Alliance's Baltic air policing mission, launched almost 20 years ago, to an air defense mission.

Discussions on the issue have intensified in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

Given the shortage of such weapons, however, the Baltic countries have proposed a rotational deployment of air defense capabilities, meaning that a different Western partner could send military equipment to a different Baltic country on a rotational basis.

Lithuania's Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupsys thanked his Portuguese counterpart for "sustained cooperation in all military dimensions" and said that the countries are looking to step up their partnership in cyber security.

"Military cooperation (...) practically covers the air dimension, the navy and the land force. Today we said that we need a fourth element, cyber defense," he told reporters.  

"We know quite well the experience that the Lithuanian Armed Forces have in the cyber area," said Nunes da Fonseca. "We are transforming our armed forces, we are building the cyber command in Portugal and we are also facing some threats."

"It is possible to exchange experiences (...) by sending some experts to Lithuania and sending some experts from Lithuania to Portugal to share what we know," he said.  

Lithuania and Portugal have been cooperating in defense since 2002. 

Currently, Portuguese and Romanian military personnel are protecting Baltic airspace with eight F-16 fighter jets.

This is the Portuguese Air Force's sixth rotation of the NATO Baltic air policing mission since the first deployment in Lithuania in 2007.  

NATO member countries have taken turns safeguarding Baltic airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance back in 2004.