On November 30 air detachments conducting the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states will change over at the Lithuanian Air Forces Base in Šiauliai. After four months on duty the Italian Air Force capability will be replaced by a Belgian Royal Air Force detachment with four F-16 Fighting Falcons and a French Air Force Detachment with Mirage2000 that will reinforce the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states.
The Belgian Air Force will be providing its seventh rotation of the mission. It will include approx. 80 members: pilots, technicians, medical personnel, support groups, communications specialists, etc.
The French will be guarding the Baltic skies for the eighth time with a contingent of strength of approx. 100 military specialists of different areas.
The hand over-take over ceremony Thursday will be attended by Vice Minister of National Defence Oro Žilvinas Tomkus, Chief of Defence of Lithuania Gen Valdemaras Rupšys, Deputy Chief of Staff Support at the NATO Headquarters Allied Air Command Brigadier General Gilles Juventin, Chief of the Defence Staff of Italy Adm Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, Chief of Staff of the Lithuanian Air Force Col Devis Martusevičius and Commander of the Air Base Lt Col Eligijus Rukšnaitis, representatives of Šiauliai City, and other guests.
The outgoing Italian detachment was protecting the Baltic airspace with four Eurofighter Typhoon fighter aircraft. Over the course of the deployment they were also generously engaging in community support events in Panevėžys.
NATO Allies have been deploying troops and assets to guard the Baltic airspace since March 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO. Since then, 17 Allies have flown the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states. The mission completed by the Italian Air Detachment will the 63rd since the laucnh of the NATO Baltic Air Policing effort in 2004.