An advance team of the Italian Air Force Eurofighter detachment took over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission from the Spanish Air Force at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania on September 1.
During a ceremony at detachment level, the Colonel Antonio di Matteo, Italian Air Force, received the key to the Baltic Airspace from Lieutenant Colonel Jesús Gutiérrez Gallego, Spanish Air Force, and Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, Royal Air Force, marking the formal handover of NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission in the Baltic States to the 54th rotation. While Italy will be leading the mission here, the German Eurofighter detachment will be augmenting as an enhanced Air Policing nation.
“Allied Air Command via the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, are constantly working with SHAPE to flexibly manage and assign Allied force contributions for the Air Policing mission,” said U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Andrew Hansen, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations. “We have a great continuity in this mission that confirms our Alliance is united securing the skies and closely cooperating to ensure deterrence and defence,” he added.
The Italian fighters will deploy to Lithuania on September 4 and establish their full operational capability by September 8. NATO and Germany have coordinated a temporary arrangement to cover the three Baltic States with an Air Policing capability.
Flying out of Estonia, the German Air Force will conduct the Baltic Air Policing mission for the entire region until 8 September, when the Italian Air Force will take up its leading role in Lithuania. NATO continues to provide seamless and effective Air Policing safeguarding our Allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
“This is also shown by the readiness of the Italian and German Air Forces to carry out the air policing mission in the Baltic region as planned, despite the coronavirus pandemic. For our part, we seek to provide our partners with the best conditions for carrying out the mission from the Air Force Base in Šiauliai,” Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says.
Italy is the first Ally to contribute to the defensive Allied peacetime mission in the Baltic Region for a whole year. The Air Force has agreed to execute the 54th, 55th and 56th rotations of the mission besides performing Air Policing missions at home, over Albania, Slovenia and Montenegro.