Having concluded its latest NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) rotation to Šiauliai Air Base, the last of the Hungarian Air Force JAS 39C Gripens departed the Lithuanian base after being replaced by a detachment of French Air and Space Force (FASF)-operated Rafales on December 1.
The responsibility of NATO's BAP mission over the Baltic region is now with the Polish Air Force and its detachment of F-16C Block 52+ Fighting Falcons, which will be augmented by the FASF Rafales. The Polish F-16s had supported the Hungarian Gripens operating in Lithuania since November and will now lead the mission until March 2023.
While it would typically operate the Mirage 2000-5 for the Air Policing mission, the FASF deployed four of its Rafale fighters to Šiauliai. French Rafales were last employed in support of the BAP mission in 2014, during which they operated from Lask Air Base in Poland.
In Estonia, a Luftwaffe (German Air Force) Eurofighter EF-2000 detachment will continue to perform BAP missions from Ämari Air Base into the new year. Meanwhile, the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force) and its Eurofighter F-2000A detachment has concluded its enhanced Air Policing (eAP) deployment in Poland and a new fighter detachment from another NATO nation will arrive in early 2023.
RAF Air Marshal Johnny Stringer, deputy commander of NATO's Allied Air Command, said: “The presence of NATO’s defensive Air Policing units along the eastern flank is more important than ever, demonstrating our resolve to collectively deter and defend against potential aggression.”