New nations take over NATO Baltic Air Policing missions

New NATO fighter rotations took place on March 31 via official handover ceremonies held at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, and Ämari Air Base in Estonia.


Belgium, Denmark and Poland, all operating variants of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, bowed out after successful rotations in both countries.

Handover of the key to the Baltic airspace from Poland and Denmark to Spain and the Czech Republic. Lithuanian Air Force / Antanas Gedrimas.

Welcomed by NATO officials were contributions Spain, the Czech Republic and France. Spain will be policing the skies with the F/A-18A/B legacy Hornet operated by AlA 12. While specific units are unknown, the Czech Republic will operate the JAS-39 Gripen and France will perform duties with the Mirage 2000-5.

Included in these rotations, NATO allies are currently performing augmented Air Policing missions maintaining around 130 combat aircraft on alert in various locations across Europe.  

Mirage 2000C
The incoming French detachment assembled in front of one of their Mirage 2000-5 fighters during the ceremony. Estonian Defence Force / Siim Verner Teder

At Šiauliai, where NATO fighters have continuously been deployed since 2004, Lithuania's Vice Minister of National Defence, Margiris Abukevičius said: "In light of Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine and a greatly deteriorating security environment in the region, NATO's Air Policing mission in the Baltic region remains as important as ever.

"Against this backdrop, the mission for incoming contingents will demand continuous agility and professionalism,” Abukevičius concluded.