Gallery: Polish Air Force start NATO air policing duties at Ämari ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

The Polish Air Force took over Nato Baltic Air Policing duties for the first time on Thursday at Ämari Air Base.

A ceremony was held on Thursday which saw the Czech Air Force handover to the Poles. The force will be patroling Estonian and Baltic air space for the next four months. 

Brigadier General Veiko-Vello Palm, Commander of the General Staff of the Defense Forces, gave medals to the Czech Air Force and thanked them for securing Estonian and Baltic airspace. 

The Polish contingent will provide air security with F-16s. Fighter jets arriving at the base are on duty around the clock, conducting detection and training flights as needed.

Defense Secretary Chancellor Kristjan Prikk said: "Today is twice as important for the Baltic air security mission. Firstly, because for the first time in the history of this mission, Czech airmen were guarding Estonian airspace. Secondly, today, and for the first time ever, Polish air forces are taking up the same role here. The participation of the Czech and Polish air forces in this important operation to ensure the integrity of NATO airspace demonstrates the commitment and solidarity of the allies and reinforces deterrence not only in the Baltic region but throughout NATO."  

Major General Dariusz Malinowski, commander of the Warsaw Air Component Air Operations Command, said he was pleasantly surprised by the hospitality of Estonians. "We have been received very well here. The Estonians have been professional and we feel welcome here, it is a great honor for us. We will do our best to secure Baltic airspace in cooperation with Estonia in the next four months."

The ceremony was also attended by Czech Air Force Major General Petr Hromek and Brigadier General Slawomir Zakowski, Deputy Commander of the NATO Joint Operations Center, Uedem. 

NATO's second airbase unit is based at the Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. Poland has previously contributed to the Baltic Air Security Mission eight times at the Siauliai Air Base.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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