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NATO rotates Baltic, Romanian air policing duties

NATO air forces have made their latest rotations in the provision of air policing services for the Baltic states and eastern Europe.

Late last month, deployments involving fighters from France, Portugal, Spain and the UK concluded in Estonia, Latvia and Romania, with their duties passed on to Alliance partners Belgium, Canada and Germany.

Six Eurofighters from the German air force's Wittmund-based 74 Sqn have assumed duties at Ämari in Estonia, taking over from four French air force Dassault Mirage 2000-5s on 30 August. The German detachment will run for eight months and the current personnel will be replaced by elements from its 71 Sqn in January 2019.

On 31 August, a pair of Eurofighters were launched to investigate a pair of unidentified aircraft in international airspace, which were subsequently identified as Russian air force Antonov An-26 and Ilyushin Il-76 transports.

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German air force

Lithuania's Šiauliai air base is now temporary home to four Belgian air force Lockheed Martin F-16s, with the service having assumed the lead of the Baltic Air Policing mission after a shared rotation by Portugal and Spain, which deployed F-16s and Eurofighters, respectively, from May.

Four Eurofighter Typhoons from the UK Royal Air Force also completed their commitment at Romania's Mihail Kogălniceanuair base, with five Royal Canadian Air Force Boeing CF-18s taking over. Deployed from Bagotville air base, Quebec, the fighters will remain at the site through December, operating in conjunction with the Romanian air force.

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Royal Canadian Air Force

Assigned to the RAF's 135 Expeditionary Air Wing from April, the Typhoons were drawn from Lossiemouth-based 1 and 2 squadrons. The RAF says its assets were used during eight so-called "alpha" scrambles during their deployment, "in response to a total of 20 Russian aircraft". The service notes that its Operation Biloxi 2018 activity also provided an opportunity to train alongside personnel from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and the USA. "These exercises have allowed air-to-air, air/land and air/maritime integration training to be carried out with our NATO allies in the region," the service adds.

Meanwhile, a detachment of four Italian air force Typhoons has arrived at Keflavík in Iceland, as part of NATO's wider air policing responsibilities. Deployed from Grosetto air base with support from a Boeing KC-767A tanker, the quartet will operate from the site between 13 September and 3 October.

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Italian air force

"In addition to supporting the Nordic ally, the mission offers a valuable training opportunity for the Italian air force, whose crews will practise in a unique geographical location and boost their skills to operate in an unfamiliar airspace," says NATO.

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