On 2 September 2013, four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-jets of the Royal Belgian Air Force landed at the Šiauliai Air Base to take charge of NATO’s Air Policing mission over the Baltic States, the Ministry of National Defence has informed.
The Air Contingent of the Royal Belgian Air Force took over the responsibility of protecting Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace from French military at a formal ceremony on 3 September.
Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force Major General Edvardas Mažeikis, Head of Operations Division of the Belgian Royal Air Force Colonel Georges Franchomme, Commander of the Estonian Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien, Defence Attaché of France in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Luc Lopez, representatives of the US Embassy in Lithuania, leadership of Šiauliai city and circuit, and other guests were in attendance at the formal changeover ceremony.
Fighter-jets of the Belgian Air Force has replaced French air personnel and Mirage F1-CR aircraft on duty since 30 April, 2013, and for the third time take charge of security in the Baltic skies.
Belgian military will be protecting the Baltic skies for a third time (the country delegated its air personnel and assets to carry out air policing over the Baltic States in 2004 and 2006-2007).
The Belgian Royal Air Force has committed 50 military and four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-jets for a four-month rotation period. Two aircraft and the majority of the air contingent are deployed from the Belgian Air Force Kleine Brogel Air Base, 10th Tactical Wing based in the northeaster part of Belgium, province of Limburg, the other two fighter-jets – from Florennes Air Base 2nd Tactical Wing in the southern part of Belgium, Namur province. For the first two months the Belgian Air Contingent will be headed by Captain-Commandant Kris Hulpiau.