NATO announces change in Baltic air policing duties

Sept. 6 (UPI) — NATO announced this week air policing over the Baltic Sea will be administered by fighter planes of Belgium, the Czech Republic and Denmark.

Beginning this month, NATO said the three detachments will replace those of Hungary, Britain and Spain, which have patrolled the region since May. A changeover ceremony will take place next week at their airfield at Siauliai, Lithuania.

The Belgian and Danish detachment of four U.S.-built F-16 planes will be based at Siauliai. The four Czech planes are Swedish-made Gripen aircraft and will be based in Amari, Estonia. Belgium will be regarded as the deployment leader.

The Baltic mission began in 2004 after Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joined NATO. Members of the alliance have taken turns to safeguard airspace over the three countries, which lack fighter aircraft of their own. The current rotation has been deployed since April.

“This is a clear example of alliance solidarity in action,” NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu said in a press release. ‎”In recent years, we have seen a considerable increase in Russian military air activity along the borders of NATO allies in the region. NATO aircraft routinely intercept Russian military aircraft that fly close to our borders, which are not following international air safety norms.”

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