This week, a first detachment of more than 100 French soldiers arrived in Lithuania to join NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup stationed in Rukla military barracks near Kaunas in the east of the country. National contributions to the four eFP Battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland rotate, and so the French now replace a Croatian company serving with the Battlegroup for the last six months. The French contingent is expected to reach full operational capability by end of July, with some 300 soldiers, operating, among others, Leclerc Main Battle Tanks and Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The French troops will rotate internally after three months, their contingent will stay in Rukla for a full tour of six month, serving alongside their German, Norwegian, Czech, Dutch, Belgian, Luxembourg and Icelandic colleagues. Like their sister commands, the German-led enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Lithuania contributes to assure the alliance’s solidarity with its eastern NATO partners and help deterring any potential aggressor from threatening NATO’s eastern flank.
Last weekend, NATO aircraft tasked to safeguard NATO airspace in the North Atlantic scrambled several times in the frame of the Quick Reaction Alert to intercept Russian military aircraft operating over international waters off Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom. Besides Norwegian F-16, Royal Air Force Typhoons and a Voyager tanker aircraft, Italian Air Force F-35 were scrambled for the first such alert in a real-world intercept. Italy is presently conducting NATO Air Policing out of Keflavik Air Base in Iceland. Allied jets escorted and monitored the Russian aircraft until they left NATO’s area of responsibility.