Mihkelson: Ämari base must become independent component of Baltic air policing mission (1)
Marko Mihkelson, the chairman of the Parliament's Defence Committee, said that it is important for Estonia's security that the Ämari Air Base be regarded as an independent component of the Baltic air policing mission, just like Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania is today. Currently, the support mission of Šiauliai is located in Ämari.
"It is important for us that the air policing mission based in Ämari is a long-term mission, and Estonia has to do everything in its power to show NATO and its member states that they should make a long-term contribution here," Mihkelson said.
In Mihkelson's opinion, long-term planning would allow to organize better logistic support to the allies and give a clearer signal of NATO's intentions in the region.
Mihkelson added that NATO's air policing mission also is also vital to ensure safer civil aviation in the Baltic Sea region. "As Russian military planes often fly with their transponders off and don't cooperate with the control centres of civil aviation, NATO identification flights are the best way to control their dangerous activities," he said.
At today's sitting of the National Defence Committee, Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Defence Sven Sakkov and Commander of the Estonian Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien gave an overview of the current situation and future of NATO's Baltic air policing mission.
Yesterday the Royal Air Force of United Kingdom, who had been guarding the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian air space for four months, handed over the responsibility to the German Air Force, who will be carrying out the air policing mission from Ämari with four Eurofighter-type aircraft. The rotation of allies has already been approved for 2016.
However, NATO spokesman recently told ERR the alliance's air policing mission over the Baltics will be cut from 16 to 8 fighter jets, although the cuts will not affect Ämari.