Portugal and Great Britain are going to take over the responsibility for protecting the airspaces above the Baltic states. The upcoming Baltic Air Policing rotation is going to involve Portuguese F-16 jets deployed to Lithuania, along with the British Typhoons, stationed in Estonia.
Michael Fallon, British Defence Secretary, announced that RAF is involved in the NATO operational activities within the framework of Baltic Air Policing initiative, being undertaken in the Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian skies. RAF decided to deploy four Typhoon FGR.4 fighters, hailing from the 140th Expeditionary Air Wing, currently stationed at the Estonian Ämari airbase.
Fighters, pilots and the ground crews will provide QRA capability within the scope of the operation. When the airspaces of the countries that are protected by the NATO air assets are threatened or violated, two Typhoon fighters will be immediately scrambled, in order to identify the potential threat.
Siauliai Airbase in Lithuania will be hosting Portuguese F-16 Falcons. According to the official announcement made by NATO, Portugal will be in charge of this rotation, while the British pilots will provide relevant support. The rotation which just came to an end also involved Eurofighters (hailing from Spain) and F-16 jets (from Belgium), however in that case, the Belgian Falcons were based in Estonia.
Baltic Air Policing operation has been initiated by NATO back in 2004, in order to implement the rule of indivisible security. The rule means that no member state is obliged to rely solely on national defence assets and finances, in order to act against the potential threats, since the remaining member states would provide a relevant amount of support and countermeasures, required to maintain a proper level of national security.
The operation began in March 2004, it is being carried out in a rotational manner. RAF is involved in the Baltic Air Policing activities for the fourth time already. The sorties are being flown by the Typhoon FGR.4 fighters during the current rotation. After the annexation of Crimea took place, the operational activities undertaken within the framework of the initiative were expanded, more than one country is involved in maintaining the security within the Baltic airspaces. At the peak moment of the mission, four nations were carrying out air policing, and additional fighters were also stationed at the Polish Malbork airbase.
“24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next four months, our RAF Typhoons will be ready to respond instantly to Russian aggression in Baltic airspace.” - as it was stated by Michael Fallon.