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Baltic Air Policing hand over in Lithuania and Estonia

ŠIAULIAI, Lithuania – NATO's Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission enters its 42nd rotation as Portugal handed over the lead of the mission to France at a ceremony held on Aug. 31 at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania. At the same time in Amari Air Base in Estonia a hand over ceremony was held to pass the baton from the British Royal Air force to the German Air Force.

The German Eurofighter jets from Tactical Air Wing 74 at Neuburg which are now deployed to the Estonian Air Base and will augment French Mirage 2000-5 jets leading the mission from Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania. For the next 4 months both countries are responsible to keep the skies over the Baltic NATO members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia safe and secure.

NATO founding member France is showing their commitment to Allied solidarity and airspace integrity for the sixth time over the Baltic countries since 2007; this is the second time the French Air Force leads the mission.

"I am really proud to receive this symbolic key to the Baltic airspace from our Portuguese friends. We will do our best to demonstrate how professional we are and how committed we are in the NATO missions", says Lieutenant-Commander Boris Pomirol, Commander of the French Detachment in Lithuania. 

The outgoing Portuguese Air Force detachment completed the third rotation after 2007 and 2014. Looking back at the four months of the mission, the Commander of the Portuguese detachment, Lieutenant-Colonel Luís Morais says, "I can confess that it has been a privilege and an honour, shared by all my detachment, to participate once again in such a united effort in the Baltic Region."

In Estonia, the hand over ceremony was attended by senior civilian and military guests from the countries involved. During the ceremony, Minister of Defence of the Republic of Estonia, Mr. Hannes Hanso, underlined the relevance of this time-honoured example of solidarity among Allies saying: "I would like to remind us all that merely three years ago there were no Allied members rotating in Ämari and we lived in a different security environment."

"Let me assure you that your presence here is not taken for granted and it sends a strong signal that NATO is able to adapt to the new security environment and we are all united.  I am grateful for your contribution and the feeling of security – what is sometimes rather loud - you have provided to the NATO and people of Estonia. Actions speak louder than words," said Hanso.

The UK started executing its fourth BAP deployment in May, utilising Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter aircraft for the third time. Germany is assuring safety and security in the Baltic skies for the eighth time since inception of the mission in 2004; five times as the lead nation five times, three times as the augmenting nation.

"It's a pleasure to be back at Ämari again, feeling the warm welcome of the Estonian nation," said the commander of the German Air Force detachment, Lieutenant Colonel Swen Jacob. "We're well prepared and ready to accomplish our mission." 

Air Policing is a 24/7 NATO peacetime routine mission that started in 2004 with the accession of the three Baltic states to the Alliance. It is conducted to preserve the Alliance's airspace integrity and is not a response to a specific threat. Some member nations, like the Baltics, who do not have the full range of air defence assets in their militaries, are assisted by Allies providing an Air Policing capability to ensure a single standard of airspace safety and security all over NATO.

The BAP mission shows NATO's determination to provide equal protection to all its members. Since the Wales summit in 2014, the mission has been augmented by a second detachment, operating out of Ämari, Estonia under NATO's assurance measures to its Eastern members. 

Story by NATO's Allied Air Command

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