Quick Alerts in Play Abroad

US airmen serving a tour in NATO’s Baltic air policing mission are on 24-hour alert in Siauliai, Lithuania, where they must be airborne in their F-15 Eagles within minutes of a siren alert. Airmen of the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed from RAF Lakenheath, England, in September to Lithuania and will remain through the first of the year when a new batch of airmen will take over. Maintaining the ready alert status, said pilot Capt. Andrew Carlson, means the “pilot-crew chief relationship is extremely important,” [because] there’s no voice communication, only [hand] signals.” At the siren’s call, one pilot and three crew chiefs run to each aircraft and launch within five to 10 minutes. Carlson said the pilots on call place their helmets in the fighter and have their flight gear hanging at the door. In the absence of a real alert, the airmen practice mock scrambles and one-on-one intercepts, including practicing with other NATO partners as they did last month. (Includes Siauliai report by A1C Torri Larson)