On July 29 NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission detachments will change over at a ceremony at the Air Force Base in Siauliai, Lithuania. The incoming Hungarian Air Force Detachment will take over the lead from the Spanish airmen, while the Czech augmentation will carry out a consecutive two-month rotation. It is going to be the 60th iteration of the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic states. It will be led by the Hungarian Air Force Detachment that deploys to Lithuania with four JAS 39 GRIPEN fighter jets. It is going to be the third rotation of Hungary since the launch of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states (after 2015 and 2019).
The outgoing detachment of the Spanish Air Force were guarding the Baltic airspace with eight F-18s. The mission tasks were completed by approx. 200 military service members – pilots, technical, medical personnel, support teams, communications and other specialists. The strengthening capability of the Czech Air Force were (and will) augmenting the lead detachment for the next two months with five JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft and approx. 130 military personnel.
Augmentation of the NATO Air Policing Mission will be flown from the Ämari Air Force Base in Estonia by the German Air Force with Eurofighter fighter aircraft while the enhancement of the mission conducted from the Polish Air Force base at Malbork will be ensured by the Italian Air Force with Eurofighter jets. The detachments deployed in Siauliai have been maintaining close ties with the community of Siauliai, hosted student and pupil tours, attended city events, carried out charitable activities for Siauliai City Alkas Service Complex-Home and kept company for kids with disabilities over the past four months of the mission in Lithuania.
The hand over – take over ceremony on July 29 will be attended by Vice Minister of National Defence Vilius Semeska, Minister of Defence of Hungary Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky, Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lt Gen Valdemaras Rupsys, Chief of Defence of Hungary Lt Gen Dr. Romulusz Ruszin-Szendi, Assistant Command at NATO headquarters Marius Dabkevicius, ambassadors, representatives of the city of Siauliai, and other guests. As Russia continues the war in Ukraine, NATO fighter aircraft are not only conducting alert scrambles in response to violations of international aviation rules committed by Russian aircraft in the international airspace over the Baltic Sea.
NATO Allies stand vigilant and ready to respond to every kind of threat: currently, the Alliance has 130 aircraft on high alert and approx. 30 allied aircraft are the air at one time routinely. Hungary, an Ally that Lithuania has bilateral defence cooperation with since 1999, will be responsible for protecting the Baltic airspace for the next four months. Hungary also contributes to the security of Lithuania and the Baltic region by deploying military personnel to exercise sin Lithuania and activities of the NATO Force Integration.
Following Hungary’s membership of NATO in 1999, in November 2001 it was in the process of negotiating a 10-year lease contract for 12 Gripen aircraft, with an option to purchase the aircraft at the end of the lease period. The contract was renegotiated and was signed on 2 February 2003 for a total of 14 Gripens, which had originally been A/B standard and had undergone an extensive upgrade process to the NATO-compatible C/D ‘Export Gripen’ standard. The last aircraft deliveries took place in December 2007. The Saab JAS 39 Gripen is a light single-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured by the Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB.