NATO has rotated its air policing mission in the Baltic with the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare Italiana – AMI) assuming the lead on 2 January, said Gareth Jennings, Jane’s Defence Weekly reporter.
For the next four months, 4 AMI Eurofighter Typhoons will lead the mission out of Siauliai Airbase in Lithuania. These will be supported at the same location by 4 Polish MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters, as well as by 4 Spanish Typhoons at Amari Airbase in Estonia and 4 Belgian Lockheed Martin F-16s at Malbork in Poland.
This ‘enhanced’ Baltic Air Policing Mission was stood up in May 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the crisis with Ukraine, and will continue through to at least the end of 2015. During a recent visit to Amari Airbase, the commander of the German detachment based there from September through to January told reporters that Russian Air Force activity in the region had been at an unprecedented high. In the four months that it was assigned to the mission, the German Air Force flew some 255 sorties, which was far more than previously the case before the current tensions with Russia.
According to NATO, aside from raising tensions, this increased air activity is posing a danger to commercial air traffic as Russian aircraft are invariably flying without flight plans or even transponder, and are not communicating with Air Traffic Control (ATC). To try to mitigate this increased risk, military authorities in Estonia and Finland are now sharing their primary radar data with civilian ATC operators.
The Baltic Air Policing Mission began in 2004 as a temporary measure to safeguard the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania until they developed their own air defence capabilities. However, in 2012 the alliance declared the mission to be permanent. Including this latest 37th rotation, 16 NATO nations have taken part.
Eurofighter Typhoon: general characteristics
(Single seat twin-engine, with a two-seat variant)
Wingspan: 10.95 m/35 ft 11 in
Length overall: 15.96 m/52 ft 4 in
Height: 5.28 m/17 ft 4 in
Wing Area: 51.2 m2/551.1 ft2
Basic Mass Empty: 11,000 kg/24,250 lbs
Maximum Take-off: >23,500 kg/>51,809 lbs
Maximum external load: >7,500 kg/>16,535 lbs
Weapon Carriage: 13 Hardpoints
G’ limits: +9/-3 g
Engines: 2 Eurojet EJ200 reheated turbofans
Maximum dry thrust class: 60 kN/13,500 lb/6,118 kgf
Maximum reheat thrust class: 90 kN/20,000 lb/9,177 kgf
General performance characteristics
(With a full Air-to-Air Missile Fit)
Ceiling: >55,000 ft/16,764 m
Brakes off to 35,000 ft (10,668 m)/M1.5: <2.5 minutes
Brakes off to lift off: <8 seconds
At low level: 200 knots/370 km/h to Mach 1.0 in 30 seconds
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.0
Operational Runway Length: <700 m/2,297 ft