Commander of Combined Air Operations Centre Torrejón (CAOC-TJ), lieutenant general Fernando de la Cruz, attended the inauguration ceremony of NATO air policing mission in North Macedonia.
The event, held at Skopje airport, was attended, among other authorities, by the Minister of Defence of the Republic of North Macedonia, Radmila Shekerinska, the Macedonian Chief of Defence Staff, Lieutenant General Vasko Gjurchinovski, and the Head of the Hellenic Tactical Air Force, Lieutenant General Themistoklis Bouroulias.
Following its accession on 27 March 2020 and the subsequent signing of the technical agreement between North Macedonia and NATO, this ceremony marks the beginning of the safeguarding of the country's airspace with the support of the rest of the Allies, as the country does not yet have the air capabilities required to carry out the mission. This agreement ensures a single standard of air safety within NATO's southern flank area of responsibility.
Under the North Atlantic Treaty's principle of collective defence, the Allies will provide 24/7/365 air policing of North Macedonia by supporting it with command-and-control structures, surveillance and interceptor aircraft ready to react whenever necessary.
The air assets and capabilities used for the air policing mission in North Macedonia will be under the control of CAOC Torrejón, both in terms of training missions and in real threat situations requiring the tactical use of aircraft.
During his speech, Lieutenant General De la Cruz thanked the country's authorities for holding an event with which the Alliance once again demonstrates that "the air policing mission is the materialisation of NATO's commitment to the permanent task of deterring any potential threat to an allied country". He also underlined the commitment and response of member countries in supporting North Macedonia in securing its airspace, especially that of Greece because of its significant role in the region.
The air policing mission is an extension of NATO's Defence Policy aimed at deterrence through presence, credibility and transparency of operations. The mission represents a flexible and adaptable tool for the security situation facing the Alliance today, responding to any threat in peacetime, and is a key component of NATO's security provision to member countries.
Combined Air Operations Centre-Torrejón
The main mission of CAOC-Torrejón, under the direct command of a Spanish Air Force lieutenant general, is to plan, direct, coordinate, supervise, analyse and report on air defence operations in Southern Europe, following the directives of NATO´s Air Component.
The Spanish Armed Forces make an important contribution to the mission carried out by this centre. Some 120 Spanish military personnel serve in the CAOC as well as in the National Support Element (NSE) and the NATO Communications and Information Agency Unit (NCIA).