Spanish planes to land today to take over Baltic Air Patrol
The next contingent of aircraft taking part in the Baltic Air Patrol program in Estonia will arrive this afternoon. Four Spanish Eurofighters will land at Ämari air base, replacing a German unit which has been on station the last four months.
Since September, the German planes have scrambled 19 times to intercept unidentified aircraft, Estonian Air Force public affairs officer Alar Laats told ERR News.
“Most of them have been Russian planes in neutral airspace, and not using the good custom of using their aircraft transponders,” he said.
The Spanish contingent is also scheduled for a four-month deployment. It is bringing a smaller group of personnel than the German unit that is leaving, and should number from 100-120. There will be a ceremony on Friday at Ämari marking Spain's assumption of the patrol.
Plans for upgrading Ämari's infrastructure, which will be made possible by 25 million dollars (20 million euros) appropriated by the United States in its 2015 defense budget, are still not solidified.
“We don't have definite plans yet,” Laats said. “We have plans about plans at this stage.” He estimated that the construction priorities at the base would be solidified by late January.
The appropriation is part of an initiative to back NATO's easternmost allies, budgeted at 985 million dollars (800 million euros) with at least 175 million dollars (140 million euros) diverted for programs which support the Baltic states and Ukraine.