Royal Netherlands Air Force has deployed four F-16AM/BM multi-role jets to Lithuania. The aircraft are tasked with a mission of protecting the airspace of the Baltic states, also known as NATO Baltic Air Policing.
Dutch F-16 aircraft will replace the French Mirage 2000 fighters which have been carrying out air policing operations from the Luthuanian Šiauliai AB throughout the recent months. This is the third Dutch rotation taking place within the framework of the Baltic Air Policing operation. What’s interesting, back in 2014, the Dutch jets were involved in the initiative being stationed at the Polish Malbork AB.
Baltic Air Policing operation has been expanded back in 2014, within the framework of reinforcing the defence capabilities of the Central-Eastern European countries. At the moment when the operations reached the highest level of intensity, four contingents were involved in the Air Policing initiative, including 4 jets each. Two components were based in Lithuania, one in the Estonian Amari airbase, and one in Malbork.
The Polish base, at the beginning, hosted the French Mirage 2000 and Rafale jets, followed by the Dutch F-16 aircraft and, lastly, by the Belgian Air Component’s F-16s. In the second half of 2015 it was decided that Baltic Air Policing operation would be limited, currently two deployments are being maintained in Šiauliai and in Estonia (before the Ukrainian crisis the Baltic Air Policing was based mostly in a single base, in Lithuania).
At the moment, the Estonian Amari AB hosts the German Eurofighters which are expected to continue their rotation for a couple of upcoming months. One of the basic tasks that are carried out within the Baltic Air Policing forces is seen in the QRA duty, held in order to act against Russians intrusions in the airspace of the Baltic states. Moreover, the jets stationed in the Baltic Republics are also to monitor the Russian Air Force’s activities in the region.
Baltic states have no fighter aircraft of their own at their disposal, their air defence capabilities are highly limited. However, steps are being made, the goal of which is to increase the air defence potential which remains at disposal of Litthuania, Latvia and Estonia. Procurement of the Polish Grom MANPADS and NASAMS SHORAD systems by Vilnius is a vivid example of the steps mentioned above.