Belgium has taken over the supporting role of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission from Spain in a ceremony at Ämari Air Base in Estonia 5 September.
For the next four months, the United States and Belgium will conduct the BAP mission, safeguarding the airspace over the region. The U.S. assumed the lead role of the mission at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania on 30 August.
The US is leading the Baltic Air Policing mission for the fifth time, and Belgium is participating for the sixth time.
“Active air policing is an indispensable part of NATO’s visible presence and deterrence on the alliance’s eastern flank,” Estonia’s Undersecretary for Defence Policy Kristjan Prikk said according to a ministry press release.
He noted that the outgoing Spanish Air Force (SPAF) fighter jets were scrambled 32 times over their four-month period. “This hints at a complicated security situation where we live and is proof that we need continued allied support in guarding Baltic airspace”, he added.
Belgium Air Force is conducting the mission with F-16A-MLU jets assigned to its 10th and 2nd Tactical Wings, and the U.S. Air Force is conducting the mission with F-15C Eagle jets.
Allies have been taking turns in safeguarding the Baltic airspace since 2004 when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO.
Since then, seventeen Allies have participated in 45 rotations of the Baltic Air Policing mission, which is an expression of the solidarity among NATO members.