French jets scrambled 15 times during Estonian NATO Air Policing rotation

French Mirage 2000-5F fighter jets arrived at Ämari Airbase on Sunday, March 14, to boost NATO's Air Policing unit.
French Mirage 2000-5F fighter jets arrived at Ämari Airbase on Sunday, March 14, to boost NATO's Air Policing unit. Source: Defense Forces

French jets were scrambled 15 times during their four-month NATO Air Policing rotation at Ämari Air Base, which is drawing to a close.

The crew held their last operation on Friday, ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported.

Their responsibilities include patrolling Estonia's airspace, carrying out detection flights and making sure air traffic rules are followed, Madis Roll, head of the NATO and European Union department of the Ministry of Defense, told AK.

"If necessary, they can identify enemy aircraft that do not follow these rules, and they also have the right to force enemy aircraft to leave our country's borders," he said.

Friday's operation lasted for two hours. During their stay, the crew intercepted Russian fighter jets several times.

"We intervened here 15 times, over Estonia, to intercept transporter aircraft, fighters [jets] as well who are transiting to Kaliningrad. So it's an area where we have a lot of opportunities to strengthen our tactics, our way to work together and, of course, our solidarity with NATO members because we are here to protect the skies of the Baltic states," said Major Lois "Tome", commander of the French contingent.

He said being stationed in Estonia is not like a normal mission.

"It's quite different here because we are on the border with these states. We train for that, our training is very helpful to [be able to] stand ready at any time," he said.  

Lois said each interception brings surprises.

"When the bell rings on the alert, it's always a moment where your heart beats faster than usual because you will take off and you will not know what the target you intercept will be. So you have all the possibilities that are open. You are here with armed jets, intercepting armed jets, so you have to stand ready for anything and everything," he said.

Next week, Germany will take over the mission and will station Eurofighter Typhoon fighters at Ämari Air Base.

The NATO Air Policing Mission guards Baltic airspace and is stationed at Ämari, Estonia and in Šiauliai in northern Lithuania. Hungary took over the rotation in Lithuania on Friday.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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