UK takes over air policing duties in Estonia
Norway will assume lead responsibility for NATO’s air policing mission over the Baltic states on Friday, while the UK will take over from Spain at Ämari airbase in Estonia.
A handover ceremony is taking place today at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, where Italy will formally transfer lead responsibility for the mission to Norway. Italy an Belgium will continue their participation in the mission.
Allies take up the air patrols for a four-month rotation. The new contingents will be on duty until the end of August.
Norway will lead the mission from Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania with four F-16 aircraft. They will be joined in Šiauliai by four Italian Euro-fighter aircraft. Four British Euro-fighter aircraft will be based at Ämari airbase in Estonia while Belgium will provide four F-16 jets based at Malbork airbase in Poland, NATO reports.
NATO has been protecting the Baltic skies since 2004, when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the Alliance. NATO's aircraft have frequently intercepted Russian fighters and bombers flying near Baltic States. In 2014, NATO scrambled its planes more than 150 times in response to Russian air activity over the Baltics.