Polish Air Force takes over Baltic air policing duties

Polish fighter jets.
Polish fighter jets. Photo: Radoslaw Jozwiak / AFP / Scanpix

In a changeover ceremony at Amari Air Base in northwestern Estonia on Friday, the Spanish Air Force handed over the duties of guarding of the airspace of the Baltic states out of Amari to a Polish Air Force contingent that will guard the Baltic skies with F-16 fighter jets.

The fighter jets stationed at Amari are on duty at the base around the clock, performing intercept flights as required and training flights on a regular basis, military spokespeople said. This is Poland's second time to participate in the air policing mission at Amari, the last time they performed the duties in Estonia was in 2020.

«The NATO air policing mission is an integral part of NATO's visible presence and deterrence on the eastern flank of the alliance. Your service and presence here is an affirmation of the shared values and shared security space of the members of the North Atlantic Alliance. I thank each of you for your dedication and professionalism in keeping our airspace safe and protecting freedom,» Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur said.

Lt. Col. Maanus Nigul, commander of the Amari Air Base, said that cooperation with the Spanish «Amber 23» detachment has been excellent for the air base and the entire Estonian Air Force.

«Various units of our own Estonian defense forces as well as the aviation units of Germany, the United Kingdom and other allied countries based in Amari during 2023 were also part of this cooperation,» Nigul said.

According to a decision of the North Atlantic Council, air forces of NATO member states based on rotation participate in the air policing mission of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace since March 2004, when the Baltic countries joined NATO. The air policing mission was extended indefinitely by NATO at the 2012 Chicago summit.

The portion of the mission performed out of the air base of Siauliai in Lithuania is currently being carried out by the Belgian Air Force with F-16 fighters and the French Air Force with Mirage 2000 fighters.