The Belgian Air Component have handed over the Baltic Air Policing Mission to the Spanish Air Force, with the Royal Air Force also joining to enhance the mission.
According to the RAF here, the handover was marked by a small formal ceremony, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, where the Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Colonel Guzas Dainius thanked the outgoing Belgian Air Force detachment for their outstanding support and warmly welcomed the RAF and Spanish Air Force to Siauliau Air Base and Lithuania.
“The RAF personnel begin their latest NATO Air Policing mission, against a background of the challenging circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EAW personnel together with their NATO colleagues have overcome these challenges by working together under the very stringent conditions that ensure safety for all as mandated UK and Lithuanian Governments to counter COVID-19.”
NATO conduct air policing missions in member states without aircraft capable of intercepting others.
Wing Commander Matt D’Aubyn, the Officer Commanding 6 Squadron RAF, said in a news release:
“This deployment is the latest RAF contribution to NATO Air Policing. As one of four front-line Squadrons at RAF Lossiemouth, we routinely conduct UK-based Quick Reaction Alert – on standby 24/7 to defend the Nation’s skies.
The NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltics is very similar to UK QRA, and my pilots and supporting personnel are experienced operators when it comes to completing this sort of task. Despite the difficult circumstances caused by COVID-19 we are well prepared and ready to deliver this mission.”
The 6 Squadron detachment will be augmented by other personnel from across the Service to form 135 Expeditionary Air Wing, say the RAF.