NATO Air Forces improve skills flying together over Lithuania

Story by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office

Allied aircraft from Belgium, France and Lithuania flew training missions above Lithuania on January 23, conducting close formation flights and aerial combat drills to demonstrate capabilities and hone flying skills.

 

A Lithuanian Air Force C-27 transport aircraft took off from Šiauliai Air Base and conducted training missions with Belgian F-16 and French Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. The flight was used to enhance aircrew readiness and execute combined missions under NATO’s Baltic Air Policing.

“Integrated and combined training events of deployed NATO fighter detachments are an excellent opportunity for Allied aircrew and are beneficial for aircraft controllers who make sure the training is conducted safely and professionally,” said Air Commodore Michael Carver, Deputy Chief of Staff Operations at Allied Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.

 

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The Belgian F-16s are currently leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, and the French Mirage 2000 augment the mission. Both detachments are temporarily deployed in Lithuania securing the skies over the three Baltic Allies.

“Belgium was the first deployed NATO member in the Baltic States. Twenty years later, our presence is even more important in the light of current events. We are proud to be here as a reliable member of the Alliance to ensure the security and stability at NATO’s boundaries,” said Commandant Laurant Wuillaume, Belgian Detachment Commander. “In addition to the Air Policing mission, the opportunity to train with our Allies enhances every day the interoperability and procedures between all members which increases the preparation to react to any potential threat,” he added.

“This type of flight emphasizes all the easy coordination between NATO assets and highlights the specific skills required for such precise flying,” said Lieutenant Colonel Georges, commander of the French Mirage 2000 detachment at Šiauliai.

 

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The Baltic Air Policing mission is one example of NATO’s regional security arrangements. For 20 years, Allies have collectively worked together to preserve the integrity of the airspace above Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. On 29 March 2004, the first NATO fighter jet – a Belgian F-16 – touched down at Šiauliai Air Base to begin 24/7/365 Quick Reaction Alert Duties under NATO’s new Baltic Air Policing mission.

NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany, has been responsible to lead the mission under the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System or NATINAMDS. Seventeen Allies have since taken turns to safeguard and preserve the integrity of the Baltic States’ airspace by deploying fighter detachments to Šiauliai, and – since 2014 – also to Ämari, Estonia. From March to November 2024, NATO jets will conduct the mission out of Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, while Ämari Air Base is undergoing runway repair work.

 

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