NATO Air Policing
- Photo courtesy of The Royal Netherlands Air Force
NATO Air Policing is a collective defence mission to ensure the integrity of Allies’ airspace and to protect Alliance nations by maintaining continuous a 24/7 Air Policing. The mission involves the use of the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS), Air Command and Control (Air C2) and fighter interceptor aircraft.
These assets respond to military and civilian aircraft that do not follow international flight regulations and approach Allies’ airspace. Examples are failing to identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control, or file flight plans. In such cases, NATO forces are authorised to approach the aircraft in order to identify it, establish communication if possible, and take follow on actions if appropriate.
Air Policing Evolution
NATO Air Policing was created in the 1960s, as an integrated air defence structure and system, combining national and NATO assets. This allowed the nations to increase the effectiveness of individual air defence systems when protecting NATO airspace.
For NATO nations that do not have the necessary air capabilities (Albania, Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), agreements exist to ensure a standard of airspace security within SACEUR’s area of responsibility. In the Baltic States, Air Policing capabilities were established through the deployment of NATO fighter aircraft to Šiauliai Air Base, in Lithuania, in Apr. 2004. 17 NATO nations have participated in this mission so far. Since 2004, Slovenia’s airspace is covered by both Italy and Hungary. In 2009, it was agreed that Albanian airspace would be covered by Italy and Greece.
Since Jan. 1, 2017, there has been a new Air Policing arrangement for the airspace of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (BENELUX). The arrangement coordinated among the three Allies cover a common area of interest, the airspace of BENELUX and include provision for border-crossing activities of aircraft assigned to NATO Air Policing.