Baltic air policing heats up

Things are getting a bit lively over the Baltic states, with NATO’s next round of air policing duty to be provided by not the usual one nation, but four.

Poland is the lead nation for the long-planned, four-month stint, but the traditional four-aircraft commitment – being made with MiG-29s – isn’t enough, due to the heightened tensions between NATO and Russia over the latter’s rather colonial activities in Ukraine.

Four Polish air force MiGs are now in place at Siauliai air base in Lithuania, where four Typhoon FGR4s from the Royal Air Force will also be standing quick reaction alert until the end of August. On top of that, the Royal Danish Air Force has four F-16s located further north, at Amari air base in Estonia. If needed to further bolster this, four French air force Rafales now at Poland’s air base in Malbork can also be called forward.

F-15C pair

Those combined aircraft are taking over the “BAP” duty from an increased detachment of 10 F-15Cs from Lakenheath in the UK (US Air Force image above), which have been doing the job since 3 January.

Separate to the Baltic activity, Canada has also sent six CF-18s from its Bagotville air base to Romania, as part of the NATO response to Moscow’s muscle-flexing.

As activity on the ground in Ukraine forces up the rhetoric on all sides, let’s hope that cool and calm minds persist in the air; far away from the real flashpoint.

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12 Responses to Baltic air policing heats up

  1. Peter Bos 30 April, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    In Dutch media mention has been made that the Dutch Department of Defence has made F16′s available to NATO duties in the Baltics.

    All branches of the military offered units but so far only the navy confirmed the deployment of one mine hunting vessel

    • Marvin 7 May, 2014 at 7:31 am #

      Any Navy Vessel would be an easy target for Russian landbased anti ship missles that have been reportedley depoloyed to the black sea coast.
      Anyway, the USS Truxtun has been detached from from the USS George Washington battle group a few weeks ago for an “exercise”. The Burke’s are quite capable compared to what is based in Sevastopole. But if the the SM3′s (i think they are deployed on the Burke’s correct me if i am wong) can handle a saturation attack, i don’t know…
      Regards,
      Marvin

  2. Gabriel 30 April, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

    That is a very interesting picture. By the looks of it, and for the first time since I can’t even remember, those F-15s are fully loaded for bear: for sure four WVR missiles and by the looks of it four AMRAAMs. I don’t recall ever having seen four AIM-9Xs loaded on an Eagle, and the last time I saw a picture of an F-15 with 8 AAMs was maybe Desert Storm. Actually, I’ve NEVER seen an Eagle loaded with four AMRAAMs and four 9Xs, before now, that is (presumably).

    On a side note, NOTHING has been said about the possibility of using F-22s for this mission. Would it be considered destabilizing, or does the U.S. not want to tip its hand as to its capabilities, since it wouldn’t, presumably, use its typically present Luneburg lens during an operational mission and I’m sure the Soviets, sorry, the Russians would do everything they could to take a look at it “in the buff”? I hope the answer is not that the USAF STILL does not feel comfortable deploying it for an actual, potentially war-time mission. I have a feeling the answer is a combination of the first two. Still, it would be really striking to see Raptors deployed for this mission.

    • FirstImpulse 9 May, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

      F-22s have been deployed on “potentially war-time missions” several times now, in the middle east. Most notably guarding US drones off the coast of Iran.

  3. Peter Bos 5 May, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    The eagles might have fully loaded for just the ferry flight and a a nice pr opportunity at the same time. The QRA missions are probably not flown with the big fuel tanks

  4. Gabriel 6 May, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    I would expect them to be fully armed for that mission, as well as fully fueled (it’s a CAP mission, after all, and not an alert mission sitting on the tarmac). Also, I doubt that’s a ferry flight picture: notice that the missiles are not dummies (yellow bands indicate live missiles). It’s definitely an interesting picture in that that loadout is not often seen.

    This is for Mr. Hoyle: how come no one is asking the USAF and/or the Pentagon why they are not sending Raptors? Seems like an obvious question that I haven’t seen or heard any reporter ask…

    • puppethead 12 May, 2014 at 11:55 am #

      Try again – the Baltic Air Policing IS ground-based alert, NOT CAP.

  5. Evince 8 May, 2014 at 9:30 am #

    Wow..!! Amazing its look like Eagles Fly in the Air…….

  6. Joe Seitz 9 May, 2014 at 3:01 am #

    If they need a real show of force from NATO, send in a squadron of A-10s to a couple of FOLs along the Russian Border. It will make the Russian tank crews think of something more than just running over the poorly equipt Ukrainian military.

  7. Cocidius 11 May, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    While it wonderful to see us supporting the Baltic states, I’d be remiss in not stating the obvious.

    The present sad state of affairs with the USAF fighter force requires deployment of F-15C’s which are 20-30 years old to a potential flash point where air combat could occur with a Russian air force which has been rearming with new build Flankers for the last 5 years.

    I agree, we should be asking why Raptors are not being deployed on such an important mission.

  8. Peter Bos 13 May, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    The show of force is symbolical. Why put sensitive (and rarer) hardware in harms way when you not intend to do a preemptive strike?

    On the plus side. The F15 is still unbeaten in air to air combat.
    A war with Russia is going to be a war of attrition and last time I counted the West is up on hardware numbers and military spending.

    Putting 10 F15′s there is making the Soviet (sorry) military planners going to think twice.

    • Cocidius 16 May, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

      Don’t get me wrong Peter, I grew up with the Eagle and it’s a great aircraft. The issue I’m referring to is the lack of new build legacy fighters in the US inventory. The most advanced F-15′s and F-16′s currently flying were built for foreign nations due to the current policy of putting all our eggs in the F-35 basket.

      This all or nothing strategy now requires the USAF to fly F-15′s far beyond their normal life expectancy in a potential flash point where they could be pitted against heavily armed Russian aircraft fresh off the production line equipped with near peer level technology.

      As much as I like the F-15, it is no longer the unbeaten bird it used to be. As an example the Typhoon has been beating Eagles in DACT for a good number of years now.

      On the Russian side there are at least 48 new Su-35S fighters now flying along with an unknown number of Su-30SM’s all built within the last 4-5 years. These aircraft have full “glass” cockpits with modern avionics, radar and the latest Russian weapons systems.

      In short we’re not dealing with a 3rd world nation in this conflict, and this is the type of mission the Raptor was designed for.

      http://www.military.com/video/aircraft/jet-fighters/up-close-to-the-sukhoi-su-30sm/2683423209001/

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