Additional Fighters Arrive, Bolstering Air Policing Mission (3)
Six more F-15 fighter planes landed at Šiauliai air base in Lithuania at 14:00 today in the strongest physical signal of support for NATO's eastern allies following Russia's move on Crimea.
The decision to send the fighters, accompanied by two KC-135 refuelling aircraft, was confirmed by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Wednesday, according to Reuters. It comes two days after NATO held an unusual "Article Four" meeting in which it reassured the Baltics, Poland and other NATO members with a border on Ukraine amid concerns of growing instability on the alliance's borders.
The six F-15s will be carrying out exercises over Estonia in coming days, the Defense Forces general staff told uudised.err.ee.
The US took over the rotating lead of the Air Policing mission from Belgium in January. Ordinarily four fighters patrol the skies over the Baltics, where at least several times a year, they intercept, for instance, Russian aircraft that stray across the border, most recently during February 24 Estonian Independence Day festivities.
The mission was extended indefinitely at the Chicago summit in 2012.