German Eurofighters Hand Over NATO Air Policing Mission as Italy Starts First-time F-35 Deploymen
German Eurofighters Hand Over NATO Air Policing Mission as Italy Starts First-time F-35 Deploymen

German Eurofighters Hand Over NATO Air Policing Mission as Italy Starts First-time F-35 Deploymen

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.

Some of the senior military visitors who attended the ceremony – Lieutenant General Alberto Rosso, Italian Air Chief, Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer, Commander Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem, General Jeff Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command and Lieutenant General Martin Herem, Estonian Chief of Defence (from left to right). Photo by Sebastian Spindler/NATO

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.

General Harrigian thanked the outgoing German Eurofighter detachment and Host Nation Estonia and welcomed the incoming Italian F-35 detachment. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki/NATO

“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.

An Italian Air Force F-35 outside the ceremony hangar at Ämari Air Base, which will be the temporary home for the Italian detachment for the upcoming four months as they preserve the integrity of the Baltic airspace. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki?NATO

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.

With a German Eurofighter (left) and an Italian F-35 (right) as a backdrop, the two detachments were assembled to hand over the responsibility for NATO’s enhanced Air Policing in the Baltic region with senior civilian and military representatives watching. Photo by Jarkko Martin Pukki/NATO