On May 3, 2021, German Eurofighters, after a handover-takeover ceremony at Ämari Air Base, redeployed to their home base in Germany. The German Air Force had augmented NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission since September 2020. During the ceremony, the Estonian Minister of Defence, Mr. Kalle Laanet, and Commander Allied Air Command, General Jeffrey Harrigian, thanked the Eurofighter team of Lieutenant Colonel Sören Richter for accomplishing the mission and representing the Alliance in Estonia. Covering the 54th and 55th rotation, German Eurofighters scrambled almost three dozen times safeguarding the skies.
Lieutenant Colonel Richter handed over the responsibility at Ämari to his incoming Italian colleague, Colonel Vincenzo Sirico. General Harrigian acknowledged that Italy is the first Ally to deploy their F-35 fighter jets to NATO’s Air Policing mission in the Baltic region. Italy accomplished two rotations leading Baltic Air Policing at Siauliai, where the Eurofighter detachment handed over the lead to a Spanish Eurofighter detachment on April 29.
For the first time Italy flies the F-35, a fifth-generation versatile multi-role fighter aircraft, in the Baltic region.
“You once again demonstrated your readiness, your preparedness and ability to respond at a moment’s notice. You have deployed thirteen times to the Baltics – a fantastic effort done again by a great team that time and time again delivers for the Alliance. It is great to have you here and to see you deployed with your F-35s. You continue to lead the way with your ability to move F-35s from Italy and with each deployment the collective Alliance learns from you, learns from your professionalism,” said General Harrigian.
In 2019, Italy and, subsequently, Norway already deployed the F-35 to Iceland, where the jets conducted NATO Air Policing mission. Bringing the F-35 to an Allied high-tempo mission is another significant step toward integrating modern platforms into Allied Air Power. Both Allied Air Command and the Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem, Germany, are integrating the enhanced situational awareness and advanced avionics capabilities into NATO’s Air Policing arrangements permitting to preserve NATO’s technological edge in providing collective security to Allied populations.