French fighter aircraft arrived in Poland on Monday (28 April 2014) to conduct training activities and air policing duties and Canadian jets left Canada on Tuesday (29 April) for deployment to Romania for similar duties there.
A ceremony is planned on Wednesday ( 30 April 2014) at the Siauliai airbase in Lithuania when the United States will hand over responsibility for the mission to Poland, the United Kingdom and Denmark. The three countries will officially take over the task on Thursday (1 May 2014). The United States led the mission from 1 January to 30 April 2014. Poland will lead the mission and provide four MiG-29 aircraft. They will be backed up by four British Typhoon jets. The Polish and British aircraft will operate out of Siauliai airbase in Lithuania.
Four Danish F-16 jets will start patrols from Amari airbase in neighboring Estonia. The three Allies will conduct air policing duties for a four month period.
In addition, four French Rafale jets will operate out of the Malbork airbase in Poland. The six Canadian CF-18 fighter aircraft will be based in Romania as part of the NATO efforts to reassure Allies in Central and Eastern Europe.
For the past ten years, NATO member states have taken turns sending fighter aircraft to police the airspace of the Baltic States as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have fighter jets of their own. NATO’s air-policing mission protects the safety and integrity of Alliance airspace on a 24/7 basis and Allies take up the patrols for a four-month rotation. Allies have traditionally deployed four fighter jets for their rotation, however, NATO increased its presence with additional jets after the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine.