NATO Extends Enhanced Baltic Air Policing

NATO will continue its bulked-up Baltic Air Policing sending a fresh rotation of fighters to both Estonia and Lithuania, after the current rotations end in early 2015, alliance officials announced. “Today’s Baltic Air Policing mission requires both high readiness and interoperability,” said NATO air command boss USAF Gen. Frank Gorenc, in a Nov. 6 release. Russian aggression in Ukraine prompted NATO to augment its alert mission with additional fighters in Lithuania and several new alert bases back in April. A detachment of Portuguese F-16s buttressed by Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s has been intercepting Russian aircraft from Šiauliai AB, Lithuania, since September. German fighters are covering allied airspace from Ämari AB, Estonia, and Dutch F-16s are deployed to a third alert location at Malbork AB, Poland, according to allied officials. After the New Year, Italy and Poland will take over Lithuanian quick-reaction alert, and Spain will rotate to Estonia. Allied fighters have intercepted more than 100 Russian aircraft since the beginning of the year, which is roughly three-times more than average.