Four Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon jets have arrived at the Lithuanian Šiauliai airbase. These fighters, starting from 7th January, are going to take over the responsibility currently held by the Hungarian Gripens, within the scope of the Baltic Air Policing operation.
This is going to be the third Spanish rotation, within the framework of the NATO Baltic Air Policing initiative, the objective of which is to protect the airspaces of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Back in 2006, the first rotation of the Spanish Air Force, related to the Baltic Air Policing initiative, involved the obsolete Mirage F1 fighters. Subsequently, the Spanish fighters appeared again in the Lithuanian skies in January last year, when they were supporting the Polish MiG-29 jets in the air policing operations in the Baltic region, being stationed at the Estonian Ämari airbase. The last rotation involved the Eurofighter Typhoons.
Last year, the Ala 11 jets, stationed at the Morón de la Frontera airbase close to Seville on a daily basis, were involved in the operation. On Jan. 4th 2016, four Eurofighter Typhoon jets and 130 troops of the 14 Ala unit, hailing from the Los Llanos Albacete Airbase, began their deployment at the Lithuanian Šiauliai airbase. On 7th January, the Spanish pilots are going to take over the air policing duty, from their Hungarian colleagues, flying the JAS39 Gripen fighters. The Spanish pilots are going to receive support from four Belgian F-16AM jets, stationed in Estonia.
Baltic Air Policing operation has been active since March 2004, from the moment when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia all became a part of the NATO structures. The air forces of the Baltic Republics have no fighter jets at their disposal, thus NATO decided to delegate the allied fighters to conduct air policing operations in the region, on a rotational basis, with a single rotation lasting four months.