U.S. Air Force fighter jets took over the command of the air surveillance operations of  Iceland and Lithuania. They also remain on alert for the big "Zapad" Russian exercise close to the Baltic borders.

USAF F-15 NATO Baltic air policing
USAF F-15 fighter jets from Lakeneth AFB were deployed in the Baltic

While six F-15C fighter jets from Louisiana and Florida Air National Guard are supervising the Icelandic sky under the NATO enhanced Air Policing mission (More details here), an additional batch of seven USAF F-15Cs from RAF Lakenheath AFB were deployed to Šiauliai AFB, Lithuania, to safeguard NATO allies too.

The USAF fighter jets took over the lead of NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the Polish Air Force and they will ensure the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania together with Belgian Air Force F-16 jets at Ämari, Estonia.

The detachment of US fighter aicraft to police the skies over Baltic region takes place in the same period of the major Russo-Belarusian military exercise named "Zapad". In september the Russian and Belarusian troops will conduct military maneuvers close to the Baltic borders. It is not a case that USAF has sent three more aircraft (7 instead of 4) than normally deployed in the nordic area.

A first deployment of USAF fighter jets in the Baltic had already taken place in 2014 when six F-15C Eagles from RAF Lakenheath were based in Lithuania to bolster NATO’s air policing mission over the Baltics region amid the crisis in nearby Ukraine. This is the U.S. Air Force’s 5th rotation serving as the lead for the NATO mission.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Photo credits: USAF

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