The Baltic Air Policing mission aims to guarantee collective allied defence within the airspace of the Baltic republics as NATO member states, preserving the security of their skies.
Starting on April 30th, Spain takes the lead in the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) rapid reaction alert mission, with the presence of seven Eurofighter aircraft, four of which have been transferred to the NATO chain of command. 'Vilkas 2021' detachment is make of 130 Air Force personnel, and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bayardo Abós Álvarez-Buiza as Force Commander.
The contingent is deployed in Lithuania, at the Šiauliai air base and in the town of Karmelava.
BAP mission handover/takeover (HOTO) brief ceremony took place at Šiauliai air base, observing all COVID-19 health protocols with a short list of attendees.
General Claudio Ganbellini, as NATO's Air Command representative, and Lithuanian Air Force Commander, Colonel Dainius Guzas, addressed some words of appreciation to the outgoing Italian contingent for the work done, also wishing success to the incoming Spanish BAP-56 contingent. After lowering the Italian flag, the Spanish flag was hoisted. The Italian Force Commander, Colonel Daniele Donati, presented the Spanish Force Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Abós, with the symbolic key to the airspace of the Baltic countries.
Baltic Air Policing is a peacetime mission undertaken on a rotational basis by NATO member countries.
The incorporation of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to NATO in 2004 marked the extension of allied airspace to the north-east. Allied countries provide the Baltic republics with the necessary support to enable them to monitor and control their territory, conducting Quick Rapid Alert (QRA) missions.
The Spanish aircraft, which arrived at Šiauliai Air Base on April 25 and 26, are tasked with intercepting and identifying civilian or military aircraft that do not comply with international flight regulations, which approach into allied airspace or which have not been properly identified by air traffic control systems.
Along with the Spanish Eurofighters, four Italian F-35 aircraft will also be deployed at the Ämari air base (Estonia).
The mission involves, in addition to personnel from the 14th Wing, staff from the Mobile Air Control Group (GRUMOCA), Second Air Deployment Support Squadron (SEADA), Seville Air Training 'Maestranza' (MAESE), Directorate of Education (DEN), Management Computer Centre (CIGES), Communications Group (GRUTRA), Central Command and Control Group (GRUCEMAC), Northern Command and Control Group (GRUCEMAC), Alert and Control Group (GRUALERCON), Quartermaster Logistics Centre (CLOIN), Air Deployment Support Squadron (EADA), Deployment Support Medical Unit (UMAAD), Logistics Centre for Weapons and Experimentation (CLAEX) and Central Defence Hospital.
BAP is a mission that has been carried out uninterruptedly since 2004, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Spain has taken part in the mission since 2006, on eight occasions. The 14th Wing previously deployed four "Eurofighters" to this same air base in Šiauliai in 2016, flying more than 400 hours and conducting a total of 14 interceptions and identifications.