Italians ready to protect Baltic airspace

Eurofighter Typhoon

Leading the Italian contingent, Lieutenant Marco Bertoli said the Italian Air Force will carry out the same procedures they do during air policing in Italy.

“We expect that our air crews and our men on the ground will follow these procedures and will be ready for the mission in this environment. Our task here is protecting the Baltic airspace from many violations, regardless of the direction of the violation itself. So we are prepared to take off and protect the air space with our jets,” Bertoli told journalists at the Lithuanian Air Force’s Air Base in Šiauliai, northern Lithuania, on Wednesday.

The base hosted a changeover ceremony on Wednesday when Italian troops replaced their Portuguese and Canadian counterparts.

The incoming detachment of the Italian Air force will participate in the 37th NATO air policing mission and it will be their first rotation in this mission. Italy has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoons for the mission.

On 5 January, four Polish MiG-29 fighter jets are due to arrive once again in Šiauliai to bolster the NATO mission that will last until the end of April.

NATO allies have been sending their troops to guard the Baltic airspace since March, 2004 when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became NATO member countries.

Four fighter jets used to be stationed in Šiauliai up until Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the mission was bolstered by deploying fighter jets in Estonia and Poland.

Figures show that NATO fighter jets have been scrambled around 150 times to identify and accompany Russian military aircraft flying near the Baltic states, which is three times more than last year.

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