Expanding the Baltic Air Policing Mission

NATO allies have carried out the Baltic Air Policing for more than 10 years, but since the Crimea crisis of 2014 the scope has expanded significantly in an effort to provide assurance and to respond to increasing Russian air activity, NATO and US Air Force officials told Air Force Magazine during a recent trip to Europe. US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa boss Gen. Frank Gorenc told reporters at the Paris Air Show that “activity is up … on the Russian side and it is up on our response.” Gorenc said NATO has expanded the BAP mission from one Quick Reaction Alert location prior to spring 2014 to three QRAs, with four sets of aircraft performing standard air intercepts in international airspace. For the most part, despite the 48 percent increase in activity from a year ago, there have been “minimal NATO airspace violations,” Gorenc said. However, he noted, there are still concerns about the continued disregard by Russian military flights for international flight standards, including the fact that Russian transponders often are turned off during long-range aviation exercises. “It’s just not the right thing to do and it may not be safe,” Gorenc said. Up until recently, for the most part, intercepts have been “professional,” added Gorenc.