November 16, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - In response to a request from NATO, Norway will for the second time be sending F-16 fighter aircraft to police the NATO airspace in the Baltic area.
This is the second time RNoAF
are sent to Baltic. The first time was in the first quarter of 2005. From December 16th untill March 15th of next year, two RNoAF F-16s will be on QRA
They will take over from Portugal
who is now patrolling the Baltic skies with four F-16's since November 1st.
Since the three Baltic countries became members of the Alliance in 2004, NATO
has been responsible for "air policing" in the Baltic area, and the task is taken on by member states in rotation.
Since 2004, three-month turns of the air policing mission in the Baltic countries has already been completed by contingents from Belgium
, Great Britain, Norway
, the Netherlands
, Germany, the US, Poland
, and since 2006, Turkey
, Spain, Belgium, France, Romania and Portugal have completed the approved four-month rotations in the mission.
The Baltic countries do not possess the aircraft proper to patrol the airspace. By decision of the North Atlantic Council, planes and contingents have been deployed in Lithuania since 2004 to take several-month turns in guarding the Baltic airspace. Last year, the Baltic defense ministers asked NATO allies to make the decision on air policing permanent and to extend the mission at least until 2018. Lithuania claims that for as long as the Alliance safeguards the security of the airspace, the country can focus its efforts and resources on attaining other defense priorities and goals of NATO forces as well as involvement in international operations.
The background to NATO's involvement is that the three Baltic states do not possess the necessary military air control capabilities of their own. Since NATO now has a clear collective responsibility for the security of the new member countries, the present interim solution will be extended until permanent arrangements for the control of Baltic airspace have been put in place.
NATO has based its Baltic airspace policing on the provision of fighter aircraft, equipment and personnel by member countries on a rotational basis. This ensures an equitable sharing of the burden.