NATO is deploying surveillance planes in Lithuania to keep an eye on Russian military activity near the alliance’s borders.
The first of two Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft will arrive in the Baltic nation on Thursday, NATO said in a press release.
It will be a temporary mission commencing in the coming days and lasting for several weeks.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has increased our focus on the security environment in the Baltic Sea region,” said acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White.
“Our AWACS can detect aircraft and missiles hundreds of kilometers away, making them a key early warning capability for NATO. I thank Lithuania for hosting the aircraft. This is an important contribution to our shared security.”
NATO has a fleet of 14 Boeing E-3A AWACS aircraft, usually based in Geilenkirchen, western Germany.
The AWACS can stay airborne for eight and a half hours at an altitude of 9,000 meters (30,000 feet) and survey an area as big as Poland.
It can also increase its endurance with air-to-air refueling.
Bolstering Eastern Flank
Lithuania shares borders with the Russian enclave Kaliningrad and Moscow’s close ally Belarus.
NATO has been bolstering its eastern flank since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.
To deter possible Russian aggression, the alliance deployed the first battalion-sized multinational battlegroups in 2017 in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
Since the invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, the deployment has expanded to four more eastern European countries: Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.
In total, the alliance has promised to increase the number of troops on high alert by sevenfold to more than 300,000.
Additional measures include the deployment of manned and unmanned aircraft to police member airspace, including Finland and Romania.