On 31 August in Zokniai, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis thanked the Polish Air Contingent which conducted the Baltic Air Policing mission and the aviators of the Czech Air Force who replaced them to guard the Baltic skies, urm.lt reports.
“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Polish and Czech military officers, aviators and all the air force military personnel for their participation in this mission. NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission sets the best example of the Alliance’s solidarity and cooperation. I am glad that the Chicago NATO Summit took the decision to extend the airspace policing mission in the Baltic States indefinitely,” Ažubalis said.
According to him, the fighters that take off at the Zokniai airport not just respond rapidly to airspace breaches, they also have a symbolic significance, as they increase the Alliance’s visibility and remind that the principle of collective defence is at the very heart of NATO.
The rotation ceremony of the air contingents was also attended by Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė and Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic Alexandr Vondra.
The Polish Air Contingent has been conducting the mission in Šiauliai for four months for the 4th time already. The JAS-39C “Gripen” fighters of the Czech Air Force will guard the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian skies for the second time.
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission started on 29 March 2004, when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became members of the Alliance. Since then, the Baltic airspace has been guarded by contingents from 14 NATO countries already.