The Royal Air Force handed over the mission to their successors from the Czech Air Force during an official ceremony on September 2 at Ämari Air Base, Estonia.
“This Czech Air Force detachment is the 17th consecutive deployment Estonia hosted since 2014, when the superb air base of Ämari was activated as an additional NATO base in the Baltic region,” said NATO representative, Polish Air Force Brigadier General Slavomir Zakowski, deputy commander Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, Germany.
“We have demonstrated NATO’s interoperability amongst our forces and shown that we are united and resolute to protect all our Allies,” he added.
Jüri Luik, Estonian Minister of Defense, commended NATO and Allies for launching the Air Policing mission “from the moment of the accession of the three Baltic States” and welcomed the Czech detachment “who joined the ranks of Allied nations operating Baltic Air Policing from Ämari.”
Meanwhile four Belgian Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft touched down at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania on 29 August 2019 to take over the lead of NATO's Baltic Air Policing from the Hungarian Air Force JAS-39 fighter aircraft at another official ceremony on September 3.
The Belgian Air Force, which back in 2004 was the first Ally to start NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in the region, will be the lead nation for the last four months in 2019.
NATO allies agree to deploy aircraft to the bases in Estonia and Lithuania to safeguard Allied airspace over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and adjacent international airspace under NATO’s peacetime Baltic Air Policing mission, as the Baltic states lack suitable intercept aircraft of their own.