In a massive display of joint military readiness, allied fighters in NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission have recently conducted a mock interception exercise involving two B-52 strategic bombers from the US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force.
On July 24, the Royal Air Force took to Twitter to share details about the exercise, accompanied by a series of captivating photos capturing the event.
The tweet stated that the 1(F) Squadron Typhoons, deployed as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission, successfully carried out a simulated intercept of two B-52 strategic bombers from the US Air Force’s Bomber Task Force over the Baltics.
Following the interception of the US Bombers, the fighter jets provided an escort for the B-52s as they traveled south-southwest towards western Europe.
Despite the RAF’s tweet mentioning only the Typhoons’ involvement, the accompanying photographs show the participation of French Rafale fighters in intercepting two USAF B-52 strategic bombers. Furthermore, a French A300 MRTT tanker also participated in the exercise.
The RAF’s 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (EAW) is presently stationed at Amari Airbase, where it will continue its deployment until August 2023 as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission.
UK government said that this mission highlights the RAF’s commitment to ensuring the security and defense of the Baltic region and reinforcing NATO’s collective efforts in safeguarding the airspace of allied nations.
Amidst the escalation of tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the French Air Force actively engaged in NATO’s heightened deployment initiative known as “NATO Air Shielding.”
On February 24, 2022, hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, France took immediate action by deploying two Dassault Rafale fighters to Poland as part of NATO’s Enhanced Vigilance Activities (EVA) mission.
In addition, in March 2023, NATO announced that French Rafales, deployed to Lithuania since December 2022, have been actively engaged in their enhanced Air Policing mission.
As part of their deployment, the French aircraft conducted joint training exercises with Sweden, further strengthening cooperation between allied nations.
Throughout this deployment, the French detachment conducted multiple intercepts of aircraft near Allied territory.
According to NATO, this heightened vigilance and proactive response have played a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of all air users in the area.
Besides that, the Bomber Task Force, operating the USAF’s formidable strategic bomber fleet of B-1B Lancers, B-2A Spirits, and B-52H Stratofortresses, has also been actively involved in numerous joint exercises and missions alongside NATO allies.
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission
The Baltic Air Policing Mission holds immense significance as a rotating and steadfast endeavor dedicated to protecting the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
This critical mission serves as a cornerstone in the alliance’s robust collective defense strategy, signifying the commitment of member states of the military alliance to safeguarding the territorial integrity and security of its Baltic allies.
According to NATO, the Baltic Air Policing Mission operates on a well-structured four-month rotational basis, with allied nations taking turns deploying their forces to air bases in Šiauliai, Lithuania, and Estonia.
The forces stationed at these bases remain on high alert, ready to be swiftly launched, under the guidance of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany.
The mission started in 2004 when the three Baltic States joined NATO. At that time, a NATO Air Policing capability was established at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
In 2014, NATO took additional measures to reassure its Eastern Allies. As part of these efforts, a second Air Policing presence was established at Ämari Air Base in Estonia.
Fighter aircraft assigned to NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission frequently embark on missions to identify Russian aircraft visually.
The frequency of Russian Federation Air Force flight activity is mainly influenced by the geographical situation of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, leading to regular flights between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad and vice versa.
However, allied countries have raised concerns about the behavior of some Russian aircraft, accusing them of frequently approaching or flying near NATO airspace without using transponders, communicating with Air Traffic Control, or filing proper flight plans.
Therefore, the recent exercise demonstrates the preparedness of allied forces to swiftly respond and deter the Russian Air Force while also effectively monitoring the airspace of Baltic countries.