NATO is to continue its enhanced Baltic Air Policing Mission for at least another year, a senior Estonian Air Force officer said on 17 December.
Speaking at Amari Airbase, which is currently hosting four German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighters assigned to the NATO mission, the station commander Lieutenant Colonel Rauno Sirk said that the base had already been earmarked to host further deployments through to at least the end of 2015.
“Next year has already been fully booked for us [at Amari], with Spanish, UK, and German [Eurofighter] Typhoons all due to be hosted here,” the colonel said.
Along with Malbork Airbase in Poland, Estonia’s Amari Airbase was chosen by NATO to host additional components of the Baltic Air Policing mission which is normally located only at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
The Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) was the first to arrive at the Estonian base in May, with its four Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of Poland (Siauliai), the UK (Siauliai), and France (Malbork). The German Air Force (GAF) took over the mission at Amari in September, with four Typhoons in support of Portugal (Siauliai), Canada (Siauliai), and Denmark (Malbork).
According to Lt Col Sirk, the Spanish Air Force will formally take over the mission at Amari Airbase with four Typhoons on 2 January, with UK Royal Air Force (RAF) and GAF Typhoons (numbers for both are yet to be disclosed) following for four-month rotations throughout the year.
The Baltic Air Policing mission was expanded by NATO in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the crisis in Ukraine. With that crisis continuing and with Russian Air Force activity in the region at an unprecedented high, the German Typhoon detachment of four Typhoons (plus two more on standby in Germany) and about 150 personnel has been extremely busy.
“We have flown 255 sorties since September. I won’t say how many of those have been Alpha-Scrambles (quick reaction alert responses to Russian air activity) and how many have been Tango-Scrambles (training alerts, which can be re-rolled as interceptions if required), but the overall number has increased a lot [over previous detachments],” the GAF force commander, Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Schnitger, said.