Sep 4, 2014

Portugal takes over lead of Baltic Air Policing Mission

Portugal assumed responsibility for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission on 1 September, taking over from Poland which has had the role with the support of the United Kingdom and Denmark since May.
Six Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa - FAP) F-16 have now begun operations out of Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania, supported by four Boeing F/A-18 (CF-18/CF-188) Hornets of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF).
This deployment (which includes Canada for the first time) marks the third NATO mission which has been strengthened with additional countries and aircraft because of the regional tensions between Ukraine and Russia.
While the previous two deployments saw extra US Air Force (USAF) Boeing F-15 Eagles, UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Eurofighter Typhoons, Royal Danish Air Force (RDAF) F-16s, and French Air Force Dassault Rafales added to the mission, this deployment will see the FAP F-16s and RCAF F/A-18s augmented by four-to-six Typhoons of the German Air Force operating out of Amari Airbase in Estonia, and four RDAF F-16s which will relieve the same number of French Rafale fighters at Malbork in northern Poland.
The heightened political tensions between NATO and Russia in recent months have seen a corresponding increase in military air activity near the Baltic states. During the previous air policing mission, UK Typhoons intercepted multiple Russian aircraft on 17 June, including a Tupolev Tu-22 'Backfire' bomber, four Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker' fighters, one Beriev A-50 'Mainstay' early warning aircraft, and an Antonov An-26 'Curl' transport aircraft. It should be noted, however, that these all took place in international airspace.

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