Following a handover ceremony at the Ämari air base on Wednesday, a squadron of Spanish F-18 Hornet fighters will take over the policing of the Estonian airspace.
This is the first time the type is used for the allied Baltic air policing mission. So far, NATO’s air forces have used F-16s and Eurofighters, according to ERR’s radio news. The F/A-18 Hornet was originally built for the U.S. Navy as a multi-purpose carrier-based aircraft.
In addition to the USA, the type is also used by the air forces of Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and others. It can fly a variety of different missions.
NATO’s air forces have contributed to the Baltic air policing mission since Mar. 29, 2004 on a rotation basis. The mission was extended indefinitely at the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago.
Second type new to the region in a week
The F-18 is the second type new to the region to arrive within just over a week. Two F-35 fighters of the U.S. military arrived in Ämari just a week ago. According to the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. is planning on permanently stationing F-35A fighter jets in Europe beginning in 2020.
Last July, Gen. Herbert Carlisle told the Armed Forces Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that they would like to see F-35 aircraft as part of the Baltic Air Policing mission for at least some period of time.
As Carlisle told the online edition of the National Interest, the F-35 conducting flights in the Baltics is intended to send a signal to potential opponents, including Russia.
Editor: Dario Cavegn