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Jul 31 2020

Week 31 Northern Europe Operational Update

On 28 July, the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda visited the Lithuanian Air Base at Šiauliai in the north of the country to meet with NATO air force detachments from Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany, presently deployed to Lithuania in the frame of NATO’s Allied Baltic Air Policing mission. “The Baltic Air Policing mission is a great example of NATO solidarity,” President Nausėda said. “Rotating contingents of soldiers from different countries with up-to-date military equipment demonstrate the inexhaustible commitment of the Alliance to the protection of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace,” he added, wishing all detachment members success and thanking them for their meaningful mission. Together with their colleagues operating from the Air Base Ämari in Estonia – at present a contingent of the French Air Force – they scramble several times per week to intercept aircraft approaching the Baltic air space without respecting the rules of safe aerial navigation.

On 26 July, the fourth remotely piloted aircraft of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) Force arrived at the Italian Air Force Base in Sigonella, Italy. The aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base in California, USA, at 18.30h local time on 25 July and landed at Sigonella the following day, almost 22 hours later. “The arrival of the fourth aircraft enhances our capabilities with greater redundancy and flexibility. The NATO AGS Force continues our advance in becoming NATO’s key provider of regional ‘indications and warning’ information to members of the NATO Alliance,” said NATO AGS Force Commander, Brigadier General Houston Cantwell. This latest crossing of the Atlantic from California to Italy was entirely controlled by industry pilots at the Alliance Ground Surveillance Force’s Main Operating Base in Sigonella, in the same manner as the first three ferry flights (see JFCBS Northern Europe Operational Update from week 29).

On 29 July, Command Sergeant Major Siim Saliste, Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL) at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), visited Latvia to meet with the leadership and the soldiers of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Latvia. He has made similar visits to Poland and Lithuania, and will conclude the tour in his home country Estonia. According to CSM Saliste, his role as CSEL of SHAPE is to make sure that the soldiers of all NATO Battlegroups are ready to perform their task and, if necessary, go to battle. He did not deny that the COVID-19 pandemic initially threatened to put combat readiness at risks, but NATO forces successfully coped with these challenges. "By visiting the Battlegroups in all the countries they are deployed to, I can confirm that the soldiers are not afraid to fight, they are constantly busy training and are successfully preparing for their defensive tasks. In other words, the soldiers of NATO's eFP Battlegroups have successfully adapted to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and are still putting their mission first," Command Sergeant Major Saliste said.

Stories by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office, partly based on information provided by Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office and the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence, and Alliance Ground Surveillance Force Unit Public Affairs, respectively.

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has taken a seat inside the cockpit of a Spanish Air Force F-18 fighter aircraft as Lieutenant Colonel Jesús Gutiérrez Gallego, the Spanish Detachment Commander, explains technical features of the jet.

Photo by Alfredas Pliadis

Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office

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