The Royal Air Force’s Typhoon FGR.4s will resume NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission later this month taking over from a Spanish contingent flying their version of the Eurofighter 2000. This will be the second time in less than a year that the RAF has assumed the responsibility on behalf of NATO having carried out the role between May and August 2015.
Since March 2004, when the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined NATO, fighter aircraft contributed by the alliance’s members have assumed responsibility for securing their airspace since none of the three countries own militaries have an indigenous fighter force. Member states that contribute aircraft operate on a four-month rotation from Lithuania’s First Air Force Base at Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai and the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel. The upcoming RAF deployment will be based at Amari Air Base.
2015 was an especially busy time for the RAF detachment with Lithuanian government figures revealing that intercepts of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea had increased by 14% over 2014. On Friday July 24th alone the RAF Typhoons intercepted ten Russian aircraft. Recently, the Baltic mission made headlines when the Spanish Eurofighter 2000s currently carrying out the mission were videoed intercepting the Russian defence minister’s aircraft over the Baltic which Russian media described as “provocative”.
As well as the RAF fighters, the Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke will also be deploying to the Baltic. The frigate is currently conducting a six month northern European deployment and will provide patrol and security duties in the Baltic on behalf of NATO’s Baltic members. According to Forces TV an additional four British warships will operate alongside Iron Duke in the coming months including the amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said;
British planes protecting Baltic skies alongside our warship patrols and troops exercising, show how serious we are about the security of our eastern European partners.