French engagement in Operation Baltic Air Policing [fr]
On the evening of 28 August 2016, four Mirage 2000-5 aircrafts from the Luxeuil air base landed at Lithuania’s Siauliai air base as part of Operation Baltic Air Policing 2016. After two days of ramp-up, the French detachment was able, on the planned date, to take over the mission of air police and assistance for the Baltic countries, under the control of NATO and the command of the French chief of joint defense staff.
On the 29th and 30th of August, about one hundred soldiers from Luxeuil 116 air base focused on this intensification planned in the framework of NATO missions.
Mechanics, gunsmiths, specialists in telecommunications, logistics, and avionics ... were thus able to test all the equipment which are essential to stay in a state of permanent alert-warning for a duration of four months. The reaction times set for the Baltic Air Policing operation require to have, without interruption, aircrafts permanently armed and ready to take off.
The use of ammunition bunkers provided by the Allies was therefore optimized. The commando air riflemen, in charge of the protection of the mechanism, put in place reinforced surveillance since the installation of the detachment in alert zone. Each specialist prepared a workspace suitable for rapid maintenance or transmission of the warning signal, to allow for an immediate take-off (Scramble).
The Portuguese detachment, engaged in this mission so far, transmitted on Wednesday 31 August at noon the key of the Baltic airspace to the French detachment, at an official ceremony presided over by air division general Jean Rondel.
The permanent maintenance of the operational alert aims at preserving the integrity of the airspace by engaging , on a four-month rotating basis, the air defense aircrafts of NATO nations in this mission of sovereignty entrusted to the Allies by the Baltic countries.
This mission is also an opportunity to share experiences through joint operational activities between French and Lithuanian pilots and controllers. In addition, French aircrafts will participate in the NATO exercises organized in the region, in order to enhance the interoperability of the Allied forces as well as of the partners.
Operation Baltic Air Policing 2016 will last until 1 January 2017. It is deployed in addition to the other commitments of the French Air Force in its missions in metropolitan France and in foreign operations (12 Rafale aircrafts in the Levant, 4 Mirage 2000 in the Sahel). This is the sixth engagement since 2004, thus demonstrating France’s attachment to Allied solidarity and collective defense.
Credit: Ministry of Defense [FR]