A ceremony held in Skopje, North Macedonia on December 9, marked the official inclusion of the Republic of North Macedonia airspace into the NATO Air Policing system. The symbolic event took place at Skopje Airport promoting the start of NATO Air Policing over the country. Two Hellenic Air Force F-16 jets executed a simulated intercept of a Republic of North Macedonia government Learjet. The Minister of Defence of the Republic North Macedonia, Mrs. Radmila Shekerinska Jankovska, NATO’s representative, Lieutenant General De La Cruz, Commander of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre at Torrejón, Spain, and the Chief of the Hellenic Tactical Air Force, Lieutenant General Themistokles Bouroliass, watched as the fighters escorted the Learjet to Skopje Airport and monitored it during a safe landing.
A NATO E-3A AWACS also conducted a flypast of the ceremony providing a visual symbol of NATO’s commitment to all its member nations. The enhanced situational awareness provided by the E3-A along with Allied fighters like the Hellenic Air Force F-16s contribute to the 24/7 mission which ensures the integrity and protection of Allies’ airspace. The Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) at Torrejón, Spain, works with all Allies south of the Alps and controls the Air Policing mission including above the Republic of North Macedonia. Operating from their bases in Greece, the Hellenic Air Force will conduct the Air Policing mission on behalf of the Republic of North Macedonia ensuring a single standard of airspace security within the Supreme Allied Commander Europe’s area of responsibility. Via its two CAOCs at Torrejón, Spain, and Uedem, Germany, NATO’s Allied Air Command oversees the enduring collective measures safeguarding the skies above the European Allies.
“NATO Air Policing is a vital part of collective defence, which serves as the backbone for the Alliance,” said General De La Cruz. “The aircraft you see here today are just an example of those that remain vigilant across the Alliance 24/7 to maintain the security of our airspace. I hope that North Macedonia feels the support of all Allied nations now that it has been officially integrated into this collective mission.”
“NATO protects, NATO unites and NATO strengthens, we see today what these three basic goals of the Alliance mean in reality,” said Mrs Radmila Shekerinska Jankovska. “With NATO membership, North Macedonia as the 30th member of the most powerful military-political alliance is both stronger and more protected.”
North Macedonia has been a reliable partner to NATO for over two decades prior to joining the Alliance, providing contribution to NATO, EU and UN led operations and missions. In 2020 it further solidified its commitment to the stability and security of the Balkan region by contributing troops to NATO’s KFOR mission in Kosovo. Prior to the final integration into the NATO Air Policing system, since its accession to NATO in March 2020 the Air Policing mission over the Republic of North Macedonia was executed by the Hellenic Air Force under a bilateral arrangement.
NATO Air Policing is a peacetime mission, which aims to preserve the security of Alliance airspace. It is a collective task and involves the continuous presence – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – of fighter aircraft and crews, which are ready to react quickly to possible airspace violations.