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Norwegian F-16s protect Baltic states

January 10, 2005 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Norwegian F-16 fighter jets were preparing Sunday to take charge of patrolling Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia's air space this week.

RNoAF F-16AM #286 at Hjerkinn range during M3 OT&T in March of 2004. [RNoAF photo]

The first two Norwegian F-16 Fighting Falcons are expected to land at Zokniai air base outside Siauliai today, and two more on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Norwegian Viper pilots will start patrolling the three Baltic countries' air space, allowing four F-3 Tornado fighter jets of the British Royal Air Force, on duty since the middle of October, to return to Britain. More than 50 Norwegian military and civilian personnel will arrive at Zokniai to service the new planes.

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 and Denmark were the first NATO countries to send their air forces, followed by Britain and Norway, whose soldiers are to stay until March.

In three months' time, the NATO air security functions carried out by the Norwegians will be taken over by the Netherlands Air Force.

Additional images:

NATO QRA Baltics 2005 (Rene W. Kleingeerts Collection)