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"Eurofighter" iznīcinātāji bāzējas Latvijā

Lielvārde airfield hosts German Eurofighters this year

Five German Eurofighter planes and several hundred troops will be based at the Latvian Air Force base in Lielvārde until the end of this year as part of NATO's Baltic Air Policing Mission, Latvian Television reports April 17.

Until now, NATO fighters have used military airfields in Šiauliai, Lithuania, and Ämari, Estonia, as their main bases when patrolling the Baltic airspace. But now the Latvian Air Force base has also undergone major upgrades. Therefore, Lielvārde has become home to NATO fighter aircraft while renovation work continues at Ämari in Estonia. 

The main day-to-day task of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission is to deter Russian aircraft from attempting to enter the airspace of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, and to ensure that aircraft comply with aviation regulations when in international airspace over the Baltic Sea. The number of violations has remained constant for years, with NATO fighters having to respond on average 2-3 times a week.

"We fly close to them, right next to them. We take pictures, we identify the aircraft. And then we escort them away, send out a signal," said Lt. Col. Sven Jakob, NATO Baltic Air Patrol Commander.  

Five German Air Force Eurofighters are based in Lielvārde this year. They weigh 11 tonnes, which is very low for a fighter and allows it to take off faster and maneuver better. These particular ones have German-built engines with 60,000 horsepower and can reach speeds of 2,500 km/h.

"From Lielvārde we can reach Tallinn in Estonia in 6-8 minutes," said the commander.

The distance between Lielvārde and Tallinn is around 350 kilometers.

The standard armament consists of two AMRAAM long-range missiles, two IRIS-T short-range missiles, and a machine gun in the wing, and various defense mechanisms to protect against enemy weapons. The cost of one such aircraft without armament is at least €100 million.

To fully accommodate and maintain such expensive technology, the Lielvārde base has undergone a series of infrastructure improvements. Around 200 German and 100 Latvian soldiers are taking care of the Eurofighter in Lielvārde.

"Our infrastructure capacity has taken a huge step forward to be able to host armored fighters at Lielvārde airfield. Secondly, all the personnel who are providing us with this capability have gained and are still gaining a tremendous amount of experience with the Eurofighter," said Colonel Viesturs Masulis, Commander of the National Armed Forces (NBS) Air Force.

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