F-35 fighters to take off under NATO Baltic Air Policing mission for first time

Italian F35 NATO Baltic Amari
Italian Air Force F-35A stealth fighters. Four Italian F-35s recently landed at Amari AFB, Estonia, marking the first participation of a fifth generation aircraft in the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission.

The Italian Air Force marked a major milestone for the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltics when four F-35As landed at Amari Air Base, Estonia, on April 30. It is the first time that fifth generation fighters have taken part in the NATO defense mission in the region. Starting next week, the Italian aircraft will replace the German Air Force Eurofighters that have been operating in Amari for 8 months.

"Air defense is an important element of this system and is ready to respond in minutes. Fifth generation fighters will only make NATO's air defense system stronger," said General Rauno Sirgi, commander of the Estonian Air Force.

This is the second time that Italy has sent fighters to Amari as well as the second time that the Italian Air Force participates with F-35s in the NATO Air Policing mission. In 2019 Italy was the first to deploy fifth generation fighters in Iceland under NATO Icelandic Air Policing.

The Italian Lightning IIs come from 32° Stormo (32nd Wing) at the Amendola air base, southern Italy. In Estonia they are part of the "Baltic Eagle II" mission operating within the Task Group Falco of the Task Force Air Estonia.

This deployment further confirms the Italian Air Force's plan to have a multirole fleet in which all types can cover all missions. Although the F-35A was selected by Italy to replace Tornado fighter bombers and AMX light attack and reconnaissance jets, it is also deployed for air superiority tasks in place of the Eurofighters.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: Italian Air Force

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