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PICTURES: German Eurofighters assume Baltic protection duty

Germany has launched the first operational overseas deployment to involve the Eurofighter, with several of its aircraft having been deployed to Lithuania's Siauliai air base to provide quick reaction alert cover for the Baltic states.

The air force on 1 September assumed responsibility for NATO's Baltic QRA commitment for four months, taking over from a Czech air force detachment of four Saab Gripens.

Eurofighters from the German air force's Neuburg-based 74 Sqn will deliver air policing cover for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the first half of the duty period, before handing over to McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom interceptors from the service's 71 Sqn. The Eurofighter detachment is being supported by around 100 personnel, with its aircraft arriving at Siauliai from 28 August.

© Johann Ostholthoff/Luftwaffe

Czech Gripens performed a record eight "Alpha" scrambles during their period of duty in Lithuania. "All Alpha scrambles ended with a visual identification, and we were always on time," says detachment commander Maj Jaroslav Mika, quoted by Saab-led Gripen International. Prague's aircraft logged more than 330 sorties totalling 400 flight hours during the deployment, around 50h more than originally planned.

© Astrid Balzer/Luftwaffe
The German Eurofighters have replaced Czech air force Gripens

Fourteen NATO nations have shared the responsibility of providing continuous air policing services for the Baltic states since April 2004. The alliance is committed to delivering continued cover until around 2018.

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