In a ceremony attended by senior civilian and military guests at Ämari Air Base, Estonia, the French Air and Space Force passed the baton of conducting NATO’s enhanced Air Policing to the German Air Force. On August 2, for the second time this year, the task of augmenting NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission was handed over. Four Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft are being replaced by four German Eurofighter aircraft; the jets from Tactical Air Wing 71 “Richthofen” are deployed to the Estonian air base under the 60th Baltic Air Policing rotation and will augment Hungarian Gripen fighters leading the mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, where the task passed on on July 29.
During the ceremony, Major General Harold van Pee underlined the relevance of this time-honoured example of solidarity among Allies saying: “We will always do what is necessary to protect and defend all our Allies. Russia’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has severe implications for Euro-Atlantic security. NATO and the Allies have taken further action; we have introduced the enhanced Vigilance Activities in addition to Air Policing; several Allies have used Ämari as a base to launch and patrol the skies creating a defensive shield and protecting NATO territory against potential aggression.”
In the margins of the ceremony, the French Detachment Commander, Major Loïs said: “Since April 2022, France has secured the skies over the Baltic States with their Mirage 2000-5 fighter aircraft conducting frequent scrambles, enhanced Vigilance Activities missions and many training flights with Allies and Partners. NATO and France demonstrate their strong commitment to insure peace and solidarity with its members.”
His Excellency the Estonian Minister of Defence, Hanno Pevkur summed up his speech by saying:” Let me quote Ronald Reagan – “There are some who’ve forgotten why we have a military. It’s not to promote war. It’s to be prepared for peace. There’s a sign over the entrance to the Fairchild Air Force Base in Washington State, and that sign says it all: ‘Peace is our profession’.”
In the coming months, Germany augments NATO’s Air Policing mission with their Eurofighter jets flying out of Ämari; this is the 13th time German Air Force fighters support the mission in the Baltic region; Germany led BAP five times in 2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012, and was the augmenting nation at Ämari – once a year since 2014. Seventeen Allies have so far contributed to the mission which – just like NATO Air Policing in the rest of Alliance members’ airspace – is overseen by Headquarters Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) at Ramstein, Germany. NATO has further increased its readiness and vigilance in response to Russia’s aggressive military incursion into Ukraine. Allies have adopted a robust and capable military posture to deter – and if required defend against – any threat to Alliance territory and populations. We have reinforced our defences on NATO’s eastern flank.