The Italian Air Force handed over to their French colleagues at a ceremony at the Ämari airbase on Thursday. This is the first time that French Air Force fighters participating in the mission are based in Estonia.
The French Air Force previously deployed its fighter jets and personnel to the Baltic air policing mission on six occasions. On five of them, the French Air Force’s units were stationed at the Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, and on one occasion at the Malbork airbase in Poland.
The French component will use four Mirage 2000-5 fighters of Fighter Squadron 1/2 Cigognes, NATO reported. Their home base is Luxeuil in eastern France. The size of the component to be stationed in Estonia is approximately 100 personnel.
A further Portguguese component is expected to arrive in Šiauliai today as well. The Portuguese F-16s along with six Spanish Eurofighters are taking over air policing duties from the Danish Air Force.
NATO’s Baltic air policing mission is part of the alliance’s quick reaction alert (QRA) system to intercept fighters approaching or entering NATO-member territory. It has been carried out on a rotational basis since 2004.