NATO takes its responsibility to ensure integrity, safety and security of its airspace very seriously. For member nations that do not have the necessary air capabilities, agreements exist to ensure a single standard of security across European NATO airspace.
Enhanced Air Policing is part of NATO’s Assurance Measures introduced in 2014, after Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The Alliance implemented these Assurance Measures with the goal to demonstrate the collective resolve of Allies, demonstrate the defensive nature of NATO and deter Russia from aggression or the threat of aggression against NATO Allies. They are flexible and scalable in response to fluctuations in the security situation facing the Alliance and send a strong, unambiguous message to the public.
As part of these Assurance Measures, NATO’s Air Policing mission is enhanced across two Implementation Areas. NATO members are authorized and encouraged to provide additional assets to the Alliance supplementing existing Baltic Air Policing capabilities in the northern Implementation Area and, in parallel, augmenting national Air Policing capabilities in the southern Implementation Area.
In the north, in Estonia, an Air Defence Unit-UDAA has been deployed.
In the South, Romania’s and Bulgaria’s national Air Policing capabilities are and have been temporarily augmented by detachments from various Allied Air Forces. Whilst these nations are fully capable of conducting Air Policing operations on their own, aircraft and pilots of augmenting detachments can also be scrambled to conduct intercepts. The Spanish deployment, for the fulfillment of the missions entrusted within the framework of this operation in the southern zone, consists of three detachments, one of which is located in Bulgaria and two in Romania.
The Spanish Armed Forces participate actively in this mission with personnel and equipment (combat aircraft, Air Defence Unit-UDAA and early warning radar).
The airspace over Europe sees an average of about 30,000 air movements per day, making it one of the busiest airspaces in the world. Any aircraft flying inside or approaching European NATO airspace that are unidentified, either through loss or intentional omission of communication with Air Traffic Control creates an unsafe environment, which could lead to an air incident.
NATO ensures the integrity, safety and security of its airspace by maintaining a 24/7/365 Air Policing mission, overseen by Allied Air Command.
The Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón is located at Torrejón Air Force Base, northeast of Madrid, Spain. Its primary mission is to plan, direct, coordinate, monitor, analyse and report on the operations of Air Policing means assigned to it in peace time. The unit’s area of responsibility comprises European NATO airspace south of the Alps. Hence Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón is responsible for some of NATO’s special Air Policing arrangements, such as Air Policing over Romania and Bulgaria, Air Policing over Slovenia and Air Policing over Montenegro.
The enhanced Air-Policing mission (eAP) is part of the Alliance's collective effort in monitoring the airspace of its members, particularly those in the Southern Implementation Area like Romania, Bulgaria or Albania. The allied deployment in South Eastern Europe is developed under NATO's mandate within the framework of allied collective defence.
Allied radars pick up an aircraft of interest out of the 30,000 air movements daily inside the European airspace. If the corresponding aircraft is not using its transponder or is not in radio contact with civilian air traffic control or has not filed a flight plan, the track is reported to one of NATO’s two Combined Air Operations Centres. The Commander of the respective Combined Air Operations Centre, CAOC Torrejón in this case, decides whether or not to launch Quick Reaction Alert Interceptor aircraft to intercept and visually identify the Aircraft.
The Spanish Armed Forces are a regular contributor to NATO's Air Policing. In addition to patrolling national airspace under NATO's Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) Torrejón.
Spain contributes to the Bulgaria-Romania eAP with human and material resources.
An Air Defence Unit - UDAA has been deployed in Estonia.
In addition, a Radar has been deployed, also in Romania, from the Mobile Air Control Group (GRUMOCA) with about 40 military personnel in charge of maintaining the activity of the equipment.
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