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GALLERY: Belgium takes over NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia

In a ceremony at Estonia's Ämari Air Base in Estonia on Tuesday, the Spanish Air Force handed over responsibility for guarding Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace to a Belgian Air Force contingent flying F-16 fighter jets.

"Active air policing is an indispensable part of NATO's visible presence and deterrence on the alliance's eastern flank," Ministry of Defence Undersecretary for Defence Policy Kristjan Prikk said according to a ministry press release, noting that the outgoing Spanish rotation's fighter jets were scrambled 32 times over their four-month period. "This hints at a complicated security situation where we live and is proof that we need continued allied support in guarding Baltic airspace."

Estonian Air Force Chief of Staff Col. Riivo Valge presented the Spanish airmen with Baltic Air Policing missions and thanked them for protecting Estonian and Baltic airspace. He also greeted the incoming Belgian airmen, who will serve based out of Ämari for the next four months.

The Belgian air contingent, which will serve the mission with four F-16 figher jets, is based on the makeup of the Belgian Air Force's 10th and 2nd Tactical Wings. A Belgian contingent also served at Ämari from January through April of last year.

The U.S.' General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is a single-engine multirole light fighter aircraft originally designed for the U. S. Air Force which can be used as a fighter for airspace defense, an attack aircraft against ground and maritime targets as well as for reconnaissance purposes.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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