Hungary has transferred Lithuanian airspace security to Polish and French air forces at Lithuania’s Air Force Base in Šiauliai.
The handover is part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, an initiative to secure Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian aerial integrity in partnership with the Allied Air Command.
Poland and France will take over the detachment previously occupied by 150 Hungarian personnel, including pilots, technicians, medical teams, and specialists in the Baltic state.
Bolstering Air Defense in the Baltic Region
The outgoing Hungarian forces operated four JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft over Lithuanian airspace since its air policing deployment in 2015.
The fleet will be replaced by four Polish F-16 Fighting Falcons and four French Rafale jets.
“The importance of NATO’s air defence today can not be overstated. Countries agreed to step up deterrence and defence, including in air domain, back in Madrid,” Lithuanian Defence Vice Minister Vilius Semeška explained at the ceremony.
“We acknowledge that air defence capabilities should have a stronger role in ensuring security in the Baltic region.”
The eight planes will undertake air security alongside four German Eurofighters stationed at Amari Air Base, Estonia.
Air Policing in Estonia
In September, the German Air Force conducted its first bilateral enhanced air policing mission with the Spanish Air Force in the Baltic region.
During the mission, the German detachment was joined by Spanish personnel while escorting non-NATO aircraft across the territory.
“This combined deployment allowed for a significant reduction of our footprint in terms of personnel and materiel,” German Detachment Commander Lt. Col. Georg Hummel said during the event.
“Summing up the result of this interoperability endeavour we increased the detachment size by one third and almost doubled the mission output. For us it is a huge success – and it is a huge success for NATO as well,” he added.