The NATO Baltic Air Security Mission normally based at Ämari will next year temporarily relocate South of the border to Latvia, while the Estonian airfield undergoes renovation work.
The work will include a resurfacing of the airfield's runway, meaning fast jets deployed on the mission will fly from Lielvarde base to the southeast of Riga, while the work is in progress.
Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) said: "We have an agreement [for the deployment] with the Latvians. Another agreement we have obtained means that we don't get two rotations during this time. We can manage with the one," meaning that one European NATO nation's air force would cover the entire Baltic states' region at one time, based at Lielvarde.
Up to now, air forces from two different nations, one at Ämari, and one at Šiauliai in Lithuania, have been deployed simultaneously.
"We made this agreement with the German Air Force. The Germans will be covering the air defense of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, from Latvia, " the minister went on.
At present there are eight Eurofighter Typhoons in Spanish air force service, deployed at Ämari.
The airstrip construction work is scheduled to start in late spring, and should be finished by late fall next year, ie. it will go ahead during the warmer months of the year.
Minister Pevkur was also asked about the likelihood of the air forces of new NATO member Finland, and member-to-be Sweden, taking part in the air policing mission in future.
He said: "Those allies who provide our air defense here preferably come from Central and Southern Europe, for one very simple reason: Sweden and Finland are so close to us that, taking the top speeds of their jets into consideration, their fighters could be here in the blink of an eye. Plus the Finns could provide cover for us from Finnish bases anyway, where necessary."
While no fast jets will be at Ämari when the work is underway, helicopters will still be able to land and take off there.
Equipment and materiel expected in-country can be flown in to Latvian air force bases, or to civilian airfields in Estonia or Latvia, in addition to the sea option, for instance into Paldiski, or even the rail option – as used by French personnel deploying to Ämari, early on in the coronavirus pandemic.
The government had at one point considered constructing an additional runway at Ämari to ensure functionality if one of the two was out-of-action, but this was de-prioritized so far as investments go, the minister noted.
Air Force (Õhuvägi) commander Brig. Gen. Toomas Susi said that additional hangars are also required at Ämari, particularly in the winter, so jets can be at greater readiness, adding that these facilities, along with other improvements such as, for allied personnel, new living quarters and an expanded canteen, will be forthcoming.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Vahur Lauri.