August 1, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - Four Portuguese F-16s will provide the aerial defense of the three Baltic countries - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania between November and December of this year.
FAP F-16AM #15121 from Esq 201 is seen on patrol during the Baltics Air Policing 07 detachment on December 17th, 2007. [Esq 301
assumes that NATO
mission for a period of six weeks from 1st November, substituting Romania in that role. The jets will be based in Lithuania, but the responsibility of the Portuguese Air Force (FAP) extends to all three Baltic States said air force officials.
NATO member countries have been taking turns at sending their fighters to patrol the airspace over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia since the three joined NATO in March 2004. Belgium
, Britain, Denmark
, Germany, Norway
and US contingents have served in the region.
The detachment will consist of upto 100 personal (pilots, controllers, groundcrew) with meteorologists heading up a advance party to keep tabs on the winter climate.
In preparation for the deployment airmen are getting in some much-needed acclimatisation in preparation for their winter duties during their stay in Lithuania. F-16s from Portugal have conducted an exercise in Norway in order to get their aircraft and crews used to the Arctic climate they will face in the region when the deployment is underway.
The NATO mission to protect the Baltic States continues even under the current political climate in which the row between Russia and the US widens over the proposed anti missile shield.