German Eurofighters Assigned to NATO Air Policing Busy In Estonia

Two German Air Force Eurofighters leaving the QRA Shelters at Ämari Air Base. Together with lead nation Portugal and augmenting nations Canada and the Netherlands, Germany is conducting the Baltic Air Policing mission on behalf of NATO. Photo courtesy of: Christian Timmig, HQ AIRCOM Public Affairs Office
Nov 20, 2014
Having completed half their rotation, German pilots and crew assigned to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission have been extremely busy. NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission has conducted over 100 intercepts in 2014 to date, which is about three times more than were conducted in 2013. The vast majority of these intercepts occurred in international air space, over the Baltic Sea, in the air corridor between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia. 
"We have seen a large increase in Russian Aircraft in international Airspace, said Lieutenant-Colonel Rauno Sirk, the Commander of Amari Air Base in Estonia, who believes that the Russian military may be trying to send a message by increasing flights over the Baltic Sea.  "As a result, we have executed numerous defensive intercepts,” he added.
The Alliance maintains that such flights do not help de-escalate the current situation in the region and these flights also pose a potential risk to civil aviation.  Russian military pilots often do not file flight plans, ignore communications with civilian air traffic controllers or switch off their on-board transponders. This means civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft nor ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic.  When an unknown aircraft approaches NATO airspace the Alliance launches fighter jets to intercept, indentify and escort the aircraft.
"It is very important to demonstrate our responsiveness and our reaction on all aspects of the Air Policing Mission,” said Lt. Col Gordon Schnittker, the Mission leader of the German Air Detachment . "My Wing and I have been hugely impressed by the support offered to us by the Estonian Defence Forces and the local Population. It is very important that our presence has reinforced our resolve to defend NATO territory,” he added.
Since the arrival of the German Eurofighters, the Wing has also been able to conduct various types of aviation training with Canadian and Dutch fighters currently on assignment in the region.  This training has included advanced air-to-air flying between Allies as well as additional training for ground crews and support staff.
The German detachment is scheduled to complete its rotation at the end of the year, and will be replaced by a Spanish detachment in January 2015.
Story by: SHAPE Public Affairs

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