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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Poland takes charge of NATO mission to guard airspace over Baltic states

01.12.2021 08:15
Poland has taken charge of NATO's mission to protect the airspace over the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, public broadcaster Polish Radio's IAR news agency has reported.  
Poland has taken charge of NATOs air policing mission to guard the skies over the Baltic states until the end of March.
Poland has taken charge of NATO's air policing mission to guard the skies over the Baltic states until the end of March. Photo: Pixabay

Following a ceremony in the Lithuanian city of Šiauliai on Tuesday, Poland assumed leadership of the peacetime mission for the next four months.

During that time, Polish pilots are set to police the Baltic airspace together with their counterparts from Belgium.

NATO member states have been taking turns to fulfil this task ever since Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the alliance in 2004.

The three Baltic states lack the means to police the skies over their territory, the IAR news agency reported.

Poland to protect Baltic skies

The Polish contingent, based in Šiauliai, consists of four F-16 fighter aircraft and some 150 military personnel. 

They will be assisted by Belgian forces operating out of Ämari, Estonia. 

Andrzej Dudziński, chargé d'affaires of the Polish embassy in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, told Polish Radio that, in addition to routine patrol flights, "the fighter planes will be flown when needed, if something worrying is spotted."

He added that Russian planes could pose danger to the security of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

"They may violate the Baltics' airspace," Dudziński said. "What's more, they have been known to switch off their transponders, making it difficult for our pilots to determine what aircraft they are dealing with."

Poland and Belgium took over the 24/7 Baltic Air Policing mission from Denmark and Portugal, the IAR news agency reported. 

(pm/gs)

Source: IAR