PICTURES: German Phantoms resume Baltic air policing duties

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Germany has resumed its provision of quick reaction alert (QRA) cover for NATO's Baltic member states, with a detachment of six McDonnell Douglas F-4F Phantoms in place at Siauliai air base, Lithuania.

The German air force's 71, or "Richthofen", Fighter Squadron assumed the air policing task for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on 5 January, with its F-4s replacing a previous US Air Force contingent of Boeing F-15Cs. The service's new commitment - its fourth at Siauliai since NATO assumed the Baltic QRA task in April 2004 - also comprises around 100 personnel.

 
© Luftwaffe

Germany's previous four-month deployment to Siauliai, conducted between September and December 2009, was split between its F-4s and Eurofighters. Its Phantoms will maintain the latest presence at the base until late April, when the service will hand over responsibility to the French air force. Paris has already twice met the NATO commitment using Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters, most recently in early 2010.

 
© Staff Sgt Stephen Linch/US Air Force

The USAF's 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flew 66 training sorties and performed two live scrambles from Siauliai late in 2010, identifying three unknown aircraft, the service says. The unit's F-15s were drawn from its 48th Fighter Wing, ordinarily stationed at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in the UK.