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Vice-Minister of National Defence V. Umbrasas: NATO’s Air Policing mission will continue to be as important to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as ever


On 3 September, Belgian contingent took over the lead of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from Hungary at the official handover ceremony at the Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force in Šiauliai. For the next four months the mission in Šiauliai will also be augmented by Danish Military Air Force contingent, which replaced Spain, while Czech Air Force contingent have replaced the United Kingdom’s servicemen in Estonia.


“Let me assure, that NATO’s Air Policing mission will continue to be as important to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia as ever, and we will continue to support Allied troops here,” said Lithuanian Vice-Minister of National Defence, Vytautas Umbrasas in his opening remarks. “Your efforts do not only contribute to safety of civilian aviation; you are the guardians of integrity of the Alliance. Your service is instrumental for credible deterrence and peace in this region and the whole of Alliance,” he added when welcoming the incoming detachments.


“Today concludes another successful rotation of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Lithuania demonstrating NATO’s unity, resolve and solidarity and integrity of the Baltic Allies,” said United States Air Force General Jeffrey Harrigian, Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command during his remarks. He commended the outgoing Hungarian and Spanish detachment for “truly great operations by great airmen” and invited the incoming Belgian and Danish detachments to underline “we are collectively ready and responsive, determined to maintain our freedom and security”.


The Belgian Air Force, who took over the mission at the Lithuanian Air Base in Šiauliai will deploy four F-16 fighter jets. This will be the ninth time Belgium will participate in the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic States. The Belgian contingent was the first to start the Air Policing mission in the Baltic airspace after Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became full-fledged members of the Alliance.


Denmark will provide augmentation of the NATO Air Policing mission from Šiauliai by sending four F-16 fighter jets from Air Base. This is the seventh time Denmark has contributed to the mission. Denmark conducted its first mission in 2004.


The outgoing Hungarian troops conducted air space security with four JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets. The current shift comprised around 200 military, including pilots, technicians, medical personnel, support teams, communications and other specialists.


The Spanish Air Force conducted air space security with five F-18 fighter jets. About 210 military participated in the mission, including pilots, technicians, medical personnel, support groups, communications and other professionals.


Pictures: Antanas Gedrimas / Lithuanian Air Force

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