Bracing in the Baltics

The United States has more than doubled the number of fighter jets that are participating in the Baltic air policing mission in response to rising tensions in the Ukraine, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced. Six F-15Cs departed RAF Lakenheath, Britain, and two KC-135 tankers departed RAF Mildenhall, Britain, for Lithuania on Thursday to augment the mission at the request of Baltic allies, according to a March 6 release. The tankers carried more than 60 airmen who will join the nearly 150 airmen and four F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing that are currently deployed to Šiauliai AB, Lithuania, as part of NATO’s regular rotational mission. US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa also plans to boost exercises through its F-16 and C-130 aviation detachments in Poland, states a March 5 release. Hagel stressed the deployments are aimed at stabilizing and de-escalating tensions in the region during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.