Spanish jets arrive to take over air policing duties

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Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons have landed at the Lithuanian Air Force Air Base in the northern city of Siauliai on Monday to take over responsibility for NATO's Baltic air policing mission.

The Spanish planes replace Hungarian planes that have been patrolling Baltic skies for the last six months in tandem with German jets based in Estonia.

"All four fighter jets have landed at the Air Base," Lance Corporal Arnas Glazauskas, an international cooperation specialist at the Air Base, told the BNS newswire.

From Thursday, around 130 Spanish troops will guard the airspace above the three Baltic states. It will be the third time that Spanish troops take over responsibility for the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic states, which has been conducted since 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined NATO.

As part of the mission, fighter jets are deployed in Lithuania and Estonia.

At the Estonian Amari air base a Belgian contingent with F-16s will replace German fighter jets and airmen.

The number of scrambles of NATO fighter jets, stationed in the Baltic states as part of NATO's Baltic air policing mission, to intercept and accompany Russian planes increased last year.

The number of jets scrambled to accompany Russian planes flying over the Baltic Sea exceeded 160 last year, compared with 140 scrambles in 2014, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Figures from the ministry show that NATO jets were scrambled 47 times in 2013, compared to 44 times in 2012, 37 times in 2010 and four times in 2010.

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