July 1, 2004 (by Bjorn Claes) - After three months of operations above the Baltic States, the Belgian F-16s are returning home in the forthcoming days. They will be replaced by a Danish detachment for the next three months.
On July 1st, a small ceremony was held at Siauliai AB to commemorate both the end of the Belgian deployment and the start of the Danish deployment. Four Belgian F-16s have patrolled the skies of the three Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) during the past three months, starting April 1st.
At this day, the three countries joined the NATO
alliance. Because they don't possess any fighter aircraft themselves, they relied on the alliance to defend their airspace.
At the beginning, the detachment experienced some infrastructural problems. Because Siauliai AB had been abandoned by the Soviets almost 10 years ago, the runway and taxiways weren't in superb shape anymore. The Lithuanian military made a great effort in improving this situation.
The Danish Air Force will take over the duties of the Belgians for the next 3 months.
- Danish F-16s could patrol the Baltic countries - Friday, March 12, 2004
- Russia warns against NATO interference in Baltic states - Wednesday, March 24, 2004
- Belgian F-16s patrol Baltic skies - Saturday, March 27, 2004
- NATO F-16 fighters to arrive at Lithuania - Monday, March 29, 2004
- NATO F-16s deployed to Lithuania scramble to intercept Russian IL-18 - Monday, June 14, 2004