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Week 36 – Northern Europe Operational Update

BRUNSSUM, the Netherlands At the end of last week, Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) concluded a complex set of training exercises with several ships from the Lithuanian Navy in the Baltic Sea. The training focused on multiple areas of warfare including search and rescue, damage control, vessels in distress, air defense and anti-submarine warfare. Exercises involved surface and air assets from SNMG1, the Lithuanian Navy and Air Force as well as the Lithuanian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre. SNMG1 flagship NRP Corte-Real of the Portuguese Navy, in the company of HMCS Toronto of the Royal Canadian Navy and her helicopter, had the chance to work side by side with Lithuanian LNS Selis and LNS Skalvis as well as one of their helicopters, exercising a high level of interoperability between Allied Forces. 

SNMG1 conducting a passing exercise (PASSEX) with the Lithuanian Navy in the Baltic Sea. Photo: Portuguese Navy
Standing Naval Forces and Allied navies conduct regular, complex, multinational training exercises to maintain the highest levels of readiness and war fighting capability

said Commodore José Mirones of the Portuguese Navy, Commander of SNMG1. All the interactions between SNMG1 elements and partners were limited and in compliance with NATO-wide COVID-19 safety measures.

This week, Eurofighter jets of the Italian Air Force took over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission from the Spanish Air Force at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania. Colonel Antonio di Matteo, Italian Air Force, received the symbolic key to the Baltic Airspace from Lieutenant Colonel Jesús Gutiérrez Gallego, Spanish Air Force, and Wing Commander Stu Gwinnutt, Royal Air Force, marking the formal handover of NATO’s peacetime Air Policing mission in the Baltic States from Spain and the United Kingdom respectively to Italy, thus starting the 54th rotation of the BAP.

This mission confirms our Alliance is united in securing the skies and closely cooperating to ensure deterrence and defence

Colonel di Matteo pointed out during the ceremony. Italy is the first NATO Ally to contribute to the defensive peacetime mission in the Baltic Region for a whole year. The Italian Air Force has agreed to execute the 54th, 55th and 56th rotations of the mission besides performing Air Policing missions at home, over Albania, Slovenia and Montenegro.

On Monday, the German Air Force detachment, also flying Eurofighter jets, took over the augmenting role of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission; operating out of Ämari Air Base, Estonia, from the French Air Force. The French had deployed their Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets to Ämari last May. As a long-standing contributor to the Air Policing mission in the Baltic region, Germany is scheduled to remain stationed at Ämari for another double deployment until the end of April 2021.

On 03 September, a German Air Force A-310 Multi-Role MRTT tanker aircraft arrived at Šiauliai Air Base. The temporary deployment allows the German Air Force Eurofighter detachment in Estonia to accomplish their mission even more effectively. Through air-to-air refuelling they can enhance their tactical flexibility in their whole area of responsibility over the Baltic States. Air-to-air refuelling capability is a key enabler for Air Power operations as extra fuel extends the on-station time of fighter aircraft considerably.

Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office

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