U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft landed in? ask, Poland on January 4 to work with the Polish Baltic Air Policing F-16s in Siauliai, Lithuania, and enhanced Air Policing Belgian F-16s in Amari, Estonia. The Belgian, Polish, and U.S. fighters will practice advanced airborne maneuvers and work closely with Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem (CAOCUE) to enhance Command and Control procedures. This detachment in Eastern Europe is designed to improve interoperability among the Allies and rehearse the rapid deployment of aircraft to alternate bases.
“The supplemental U.S. fighters will provide improved capabilities in the region and demonstrate a seamless integration into the long-standing Baltic and enhanced Air Policing missions,” said Brigadier General Joel Carey, Allied Air Command Deputy Chief of Staff Operations. “These deployments demonstrate the Alliance’s ability to rapidly and effectively deploy assets to vital regions to assure partners and safeguard Allied airspace,” he added.
The U.S. fighters will complete routine Air Policing qualifications before participating in the Air Policing activities. CAOCUE oversees all Air Policing missions in the Baltic Region and directs any scrambles against unknown aircraft. Since 2014, the NATO Alliance has implemented Assurance Measures to assure the Allies along the eastern flank. One tool in this set of measures is the concept of enhanced Air Policing, which demonstrates NATO’s solidarity and collective resolve.
The Baltic air policing mission is a NATO air defense Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) to guard the airspace over the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Since March 2004, when the Baltic States joined NATO, the 24/7 task of policing the airspace of the Baltic States was conducted on a three-month rotation from Lithuania’s First Air Force Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai, and starting 2014 at the Ämari Air Base in Harju County, Estonia.