The Polish Air Force is preparing to return to Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, leading NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from January 2019 on, while Germany continues to be the augmenting nation flying out of Ämari Air Base, Estonia, NATO announced December 13.
The Polish Air Force will deploy four F-16C/D Block 52+ fighter jets to Šiauliai. This will be the eighth time, the Polish Air Force has supported NATO’s mission safeguarding the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Poland first supported the defensive peacetime mission for the first time in 2005 and has since deployed their MiG-29 and F-16 jets to Šiauliai and Ämari. Moreover, 2014 and 2015 Poland made Malbork Air Base available for allied fighter deployments under NATO’s assurance measures.
Meanwhile, Germany is set to conduct its second back-to-back deployment after 2016/2017. The five German Air Force Eurofighter jets as well as pilots, maintainers and civilian and military support staff will remain at Ämari Air Base, Estonia until the end of April 2019. In August 2018, Germany took over the augmenting role in Baltic Air Policing from the French Air Force.
In March 2019 a Portuguese Air Force F-16 detachment is scheduled to deploy to Malbork Air Base, Poland, providing a third detachment for the standing peacetime mission.
The lack of suitable interceptor aircraft among the air forces of the three Baltic states maeans they rely upon allies for air cover, though all three have recently invested in substantial ground-based air defense measures and that trend is set to continue.