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Belgium Takes Baton in Baltic Air-Policing Mission

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Today, the French air force will hand over its duties in patrolling the Baltic airspace to Belgian fighters.

The handover ceremony is to take place at Lithuania's Šiauliai air base, a press release from the Estonian Defense Ministry said.

The French have been in charge of NATO's Baltic air-policing mission since May. So far 14 countries' fighters have participated in the mission on a rotational basis. Hungary and Italy have also shown willingness to be involved.

The Baltic countries are not the only countries to have their airspace patrolled by fellow NATO members. For instance, Belgian planes fly over Luxembourg, while Italy guards the skies over Slovenia and Albania. In Iceland, in addition to NATO allies, Finland and Sweden have also patrolled the airspace.

NATO fighters have patrolled the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace since 2004, when the three countries joined the alliance. Last year, during a NATO summit in Chicago, the mission was made permanent.

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