TALLINN - In a changeover ceremony at Amari Air Base in northwestern Estonia on Wednesday, the UK's Royal Air Force handed over the duties of guarding of the airspace of the Baltic states out of Amari to a Spanish Air Force contingent that will guard the Baltic skies with Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets.
In his remarks, secretary general of the Estonian Ministry of Defense Kusti Salm described the Vilnius summit as a historic step forward in strengthening NATO's air defense posture, where allied leaders agreed on a new air defense model centered on NATO's eastern flank.
"As part of this, fighter jets and air defense systems can practice together smooth transitioning from air policing to an air defense posture. The NATO air policing mission at Amari demonstrates allies' commitment to the defense of our region and is a strong deterrent message to Russia -- NATO is strong and united," said Salm.
Salm expressed Estonia's gratitude to the Royal Air Force, who have done exemplary work to ensure the security of the Estonian airspace and strengthened our interoperability during exercises.
"We welcome the Spanish Air Force returning to Amari," the secretary general of the Estonian Ministry of Defense said.
The fighter jets stationed at Amari are on duty at the base around the clock, performing intercept flights as required and training flights on a regular basis. Spanish airmen have participated in three Baltic air policing missions at Amari since 2014.
According to a decision of the North Atlantic Council, air forces of NATO member states based on rotation participate in the air policing mission of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace since March 2004, when the Baltic countries joined NATO. The air policing mission was extended indefinitely by NATO at the 2012 Chicago summit.
The portion of the mission performed out of the air base of Siauliai in Lithuania is currently being carried out by the Italian Air Force, also with Eurofighter Typhoons.