NATO puts Baltic air defences to the test

Mark Kwiatkowski/FlightGlobal

FlightGlobal, 2 May 2017

NATO staged the two-day “Ramstein Alloy 4” exercise in late April over Lithuania, giving locally deployed air forces the opportunity to practise quick reaction alert procedures and boost interoperability.

During the activity, fighters from the two nations currently providing Baltic Air Policing services for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania worked together. This involved Lockheed Martin F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force, flown from Šiauliai air base in Lithuania, and German air force Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Ämari, Estonia.

Staged three times a year, the Ramstein Alloy series of exercises was launched in 2016 as a replacement for the earlier Baltic Region Training Event, conducted more than 20 times.

Providing airspace security for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, NATO’s Baltic Air Policing detachments are rotated every four months between the allliance’s members. Jets held at short readiness are launched in response to military or civilian aircraft that do not properly identify themselves, fail to file proper flightplans, or have lost communication with air traffic controllers.

Separately, a detachment of four UK Royal Air Force-operated Typhoons arrived at Mihail Kogălniceanuair base in Romania on 27 April. The aircraft will support Romanian air force RAC MiG-21s in flying air policing missions from the site until 31 August.

A pair of US Air Force Lockheed F-35As flown to Europe for a training detachment at RAF Lakenheath in the UK also touched down at Graf Ignatievo air base in Bulgaria in late April. Lightning IIs also have visited Ämari during the type’s inaugural European deployment.

By Mark Kwiatkowski, Šiauliai air base, with additional reporting by Craig Hoyle in London

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