Aerial Warfare

German Eurofighters and Belgian F-16s on NATO’s Air Shielding Mission in Estonia

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German Eurofighters and Belgian F-16s on NATO’s Air Shielding Mission in Estonia

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German Eurofighters and Belgian F-16s on NATO’s Air Shielding Mission in Estonia
German Eurofighters and Belgian F-16s on NATO’s Air Shielding Mission in Estonia

Both Germany and Belgium have been long-standing supporters of NATO’s mission safeguarding the Baltic skies at Ämari. While German Eurofighters are flying enhanced Air Policing missions, six Belgian F-16s are deployed in Estonia supporting NATO’s Air Shielding mission. At the end of February 2022, NATO’s commitment to safeguarding the airspace above all its Allies by means of NATO Air Policing has been supplemented by an additional defensive posture in response to Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine: NATO enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA) and – more recently – Air Shielding. Both Germany and Belgium are good examples of both Allied activities that are carried out from the same air base in Ämari, Estonia. German Eurofighters arrived in Estonia at the beginning of August, and they are a familiar sight to Estonian skies.

German Eurofighters arrived in Estonia at the beginning of August; they were launched on more than a dozen alert scrambles to safeguard the skies and protect the territorial integrity of the Baltic Allies.
German Eurofighters arrived in Estonia at the beginning of August; they were launched on more than a dozen alert scrambles to safeguard the skies and protect the territorial integrity of the Baltic Allies. (Photo by Bundeswehr/Michel Scheller)

Since their arrival, the Eurofighters were launched on more than a dozen alert scrambles to safeguard the skies and protect the territorial integrity of the Baltic Allies.A Belgian F-16 detachment finished their enhanced Air Policing deployment at the end of March and swapped its mission to contribute to eVA for several weeks. From October 3 to November 4, the Belgian jets now provide an additional capability to support NATO’s deterrence and defence posture out of Ämari. NATO Air Policing mission is an enduring 24/7 standby mission that foresees the launch of fighter jets to intercept and identify aircraft both civilian and military that present a potential threat to NATO territorial security and integrity.

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Two Belgian F-16s conducting a night take-off at Ämari Air Base showcasing NATO's collective efforts to safeguard the skies.
Two Belgian F-16s conducting a night take-off at Ämari Air Base showcasing NATO’s collective efforts to safeguard the skies.
(Photo by Bundeswehr/Patrik Bransmöller)

“We conduct training missions which maximise integration and interoperability with our Allies; and we are ready to respond to possible airspace violations and deter aggression. Currently, we are operating at a rate of eight sorties a day, showing NATO presence in the region,” said Belgian Detachment Commander, Major Aviator Tanguy Frippiat.

“Every year since the fall of 2014, the German Air Force has sent Eurofighters to Ämari; this year again, for a period of eight months, we demonstrate the collective resolve of Allies and the de fensive nature of NATO Air Policing,” said Lieutenant Colonel Georg Hummel, German detachment commander.

The Belgian (left) and German (right) Detachment Commanders explained NATO readiness and responsiveness during a visit of the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to Ämari.
The Belgian (left) and German (right) Detachment Commanders explained NATO readiness and responsiveness during a visit of the Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to Ämari. (Photo by Bundeswehr)

Within the framework of eVA and Air Shielding, additional NATO fighters, intelligence aircraft, refuellers and ground-based air defence systems are deployed along the eastern flank by rotation or temporarily to support the Alliance’s Deter and Defend Posture. Both activities provide a robust collective capability and deliver constant vigilance across NATO airspace. The assets Allies deployed under NATO Air Shielding enable an increased and sustainable air and missile defence posture along NATO’s eastern flank. Designed to shield NATO territory against possible air and missile threats, Air Shielding is fully incorporated into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence system.

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