A Royal Air Force detachment of Eurofighter Typhoons has completed its rotation in support of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission in Estonia, handing over to a German unit of the same type.
Four RAF Typhoons assigned to the 121 Expeditionary Wing were based at Amari air base from 1 May, and on 25 August responsibility was handed over to the German air force’s 31st Tactical Air Wing. The latter will take over the role also using four Eurofighters.
Four Hungarian air force Saab Gripens will provide the lead BAP service from Šiauliai air base in Lithuania from 31 August, supported by the German aircraft, as the 39th rotation of the NATO mission begins.
On a four-month rotational basis Alliance nations have deployed to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which do not have the air power to defend their airspace against Russian advances in the region.
For the 38th rotation, the RAF was operating alongside lead nation Norway, which based a detachment of Lockheed Martin F-16s at Šiauliai, supported by four Eurofighters from the Italian air force. Four Belgian F-16s, meanwhile, were stationed at Malbork air base in Poland.
Notably, the coming rotation will see the BAP mission halved, with the number of aircraft allocated to each period to be reduced from 16 to eight. NATO maintains that the readiness level will not be effected by the reduction.
The rotations have been conducted continuously since 2004, but were ramped up to the 16-aircraft level last year as tensions rose in eastern Europe following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.