The Italian Air Force and Baltic Air Patrolling


10/03/2015: Italy was the lead nation for the NATO Air Policing Mission for the first part of 2015, reinforced by Poland.

According to a Lithuanian Ministry of Defense press release on December 30, 2014:

The incoming detachment of Italian Air force will participate in the 37th NATO Air Policing mission and it will be their first rotation in this mission.

For the mission, Italy has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoons in Šiauliai. 

“We are ready for the task and to protect and defend the Baltic air space, “Colonel Marco Bertoli, Commander of the incoming Detachment of the Italian Air Force said. 

On 5 January, four Polish MiG-29 fighter aircraft are due to arrive once again at Šiauliai to augment the NATO mission that will last until the end of April.

Already from May to September 2014 the Polish Air Force was the lead nation at Šiauliai, participating for the fifth time. 

To complete the new rotation over the Baltic air space, Spanish Eurofighter Typhoons will arrive to patrol from Ämari, Estonia, and Belgian soldiers with the F-16s to conduct the mission from Malbork, Poland.  NATO Air Policing Mission is the cornerstone of Alliance’s solidarity and cohesion.

Preserving the integrity of NATO airspace is a collective task. NATO applies the same security standards to all Member States that do not have their own capabilities, including the Baltic States. 

The Alliance takes its responsibility to ensure the safety and integrity of its airspace very seriously – when an aircraft flies close to or enters NATO members’ airspace without prior coordination or planning, both commercial and military air traffic could be placed in danger.

NATO jets routinely identify, intercept, and escort such planes as precautionary measures. 

In line with NATO’s extensive assurance measure, Allies have offered additional assets under the NATO Air Policing framework since April 2014. 

Lt. General Preziosa, the Chief of Staff of the Italian Air Force, looking back at the mission in a September 2015 interview conducted by Second Line of Defense commented on the mission:

We had four aircraft operational 24/7 for the Baltic Air Policing mission, but that meant we had to have other aircraft available, more than 100 personnel operating locally and reachback to Italy for logistical support.  

This also required us to pay attention to air defense and provide modern air defense support to our Eurofighters.

We use a messaging system to support our Eurofighters and not radio communication from the ground; the Lithuanians did not have such a system, so we needed to install it and operate during our time in the Baltic Air Policing mission, quite similar to what happened in Iceland during the Icelandic Air policing rotation in 2013.

The photos of the Italian operation in the Baltic Air Policing mission have been provided by the Italian Air Force.