Belgian Defence Minister Philippe Goffin will be present at Melsbroek Military Airport this Thursday, April 30 for the return of the Belgian detachment of the NATO mission “BALTIC AIR POLICING” from Lithuania. He wishes to thank the detachment for its flexibility and perseverance.
After 8 months in charge of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in the Baltic States, the Belgian detachment will return to the country on Thursday, April 30, 2020. The mission, based at Siauliai airfield in Lithuania, began on September 4, 2019, and initially had four rotations. The Spanish Air Force is now taking over from Belgium the air surveillance mission.
This latest rotation, which had around fifty members, including pilots, technicians and support staff, left in late February, well before the start of the coronavirus pandemic. In order to prevent the mission from being affected by contamination of members of the detachment, it was decided to cancel the staff changes. This means that the detachment had already been placed in solitary confinement at the beginning of March and that no replacement personnel had been sent from Belgium to Lithuania.
The Baltic Air Policing mission is to safeguard the integrity of the airspace over the Baltic. In concrete terms, this means that at the Siauliai airbase in Lithuania, four Belgian F-16s were ready to take off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and to intercept planes approaching NATO airspace without authorisation.
Between September 4 and today, the detachment carried out around forty take-offs, in which 79 aircraft took part. They escorted 64 aircraft, mainly Russian military aircraft, outside the Alliance’s area of responsibility.
The past few weeks have seen an upsurge in Russian aviation activity.