The Importance Of NATO Baltic Air Policing
24th April 2019 RAF Typhoons took off from RAF Coningsby to conduct their turn in NATOs Baltic Air Policing over Estonia. The Baltic Air Policing operation can only be described as one of the most important deployments that NATO members undertake. The mission ensures that NATOs eastern flank is secure from the air. The RAF has deployed four typhoons to Estonia & Latvia & Lithuania airspace is being secured by 4 Hungarian JAS-39s with the support of 5 Spanish Air Force F-18s. The RAF aircraft are based at Amari air base in Estonia, meanwhile, Spanish & Hungarian jets are based at Siauliai in Lithuania.
NATOs Baltic Air Policing works on a rotational basis, NATO members take their turn at providing security. The NATO member state is stationed there for a period of 4 months. So far 14 member nations have participated in the mission so far.
The mission is important to NATO & for regional security, on a day to day basis it provides the ability for the Baltic nations to deal with regular incidents that would require jets to be scrambled such as an aircraft losing communications to hijackings & bomb threats. Something that on their own the Baltic nations simply wouldn’t be able to deal with. It also provides security in the area of dealing with Russian aircraft. Given that Kaliningrad is so close to these states Russian aircraft are required to fly close by the nation's airspace or sometimes within the airspace. Given the proximity to the airspaces, this calls for the jets to intercept these aircraft to be able to identify them & monitor their movements
After the Russian annexation of Crimea, the Baltic Air Policing operations also provide a deterrent to any potential Russian aggression against these states as unlikely as that would be. While at the same time it reassures the governments & the citizens of Baltics that NATO is prepared & is actively ensuring their airspace can & will be defended. Local analysts have pointed out ever since the Russian annexation of Crimea the number of airspace violations has significantly increased. Interestingly, some have suggested that the airbases in the Baltics are simply unusable in a war scenario, this given that Russia operates long-range surface to air missiles in Kaliningrad & in regions close to the Baltics, the bases lack enough hardened aircraft shelters. This severely prevents missions from being able to be conducted fully in a war.