Four F-15Cs and more than 150 airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, Britain, took rotational charge of NATO’s Baltic air policing mission in Lithuania from Belgian F-16s. This marked the 34 successive multinational rotation and the fourth time since the mission began 10 years ago that Air Force fighters have deployed to the Baltics to defend allied airspace over the region, according to a Jan. 3 release from the Lithuanian defense ministry. “I am very happy about the solidarity of the allies contributing to the Baltic air policing as well as about the increasing number of participants,” said Lithuanian Defense Minister Jozas Olekas at the Jan. 3 handover ceremony at Šiauliai Air Base in the northern part of the nation. Both Italy and Hungary recently agreed to join the 14 NATO air forces already contributing fighters to the mission, said Olekas.
These are the complete remarks by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III at the Reagan National Defense Forum, Dec. 3, 2022, in Simi Valley, Calif.