Gert Kromhout reports from Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, on the Koninklijke Luchtmacht’s most recent NATO Baltic Air Policing mission
Protecting the Baltic States’ airspace is what the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission is all about. These tiny states do not have a fighter force themselves and rely on NATO fighters based on their soil on 24/7 alert status, like the quick-reaction alert (QRA) maintained across all NATO countries. A control and reporting centre activates the QRA when an aircraft enters Baltic airspace without having filed a flight plan or without identifying itself. That aircraft may be a combat aircraft from another country, but equally it may be an airliner. Within a very short period of time, two fully armed fighters must be in the air to monitor the intercepted aircraft, take photos and escort the bogey.