Four Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft deployed today to take part in the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
As announced to the House of Commons by the Defence Secretary in March, the UK fast jets will reinforce the Polish contribution to the BAP – a standing defensive mission undertaken by rotations of aircraft from contributing nations on a four month cycle.
The deployment forms part of a series of measures taken by NATO to support and reassure its Eastern member states.
Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond MP, said:
“In the wake of recent events in Ukraine, it is right that NATO takes steps to reaffirm very publicly its commitment to the collective security of its members. As a leading member of NATO, the UK is playing a central role, underlined by today’s deployment of RAF Typhoon aircraft to Lithuania. This, alongside the other action we are taking, will provide reassurance to our NATO allies in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.”
As part of standing arrangements within NATO, members of the Alliance without their own air policing assets are assisted by others. It is on this basis that the BAP mission has existed since 2004.
The RAF’s Typhoon FGR4, based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire and RAF Leuchars in Fife, is also used to provide air policing within UK airspace as part of the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) and in the Falkland Islands. A multi-role combat aircraft, it is capable of being deployed in the full spectrum of air operations, from air policing through to high intensity conflict.
This Typhoon deployment comes six weeks after the UK Sentry E-3D AWACS (Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft), which is part of the NATO AWACS Force, was deployed to Polish and Romanian airspace to provide additional reassurance to Allies.
Following the North Atlantic Council held on 16 April 2014 NATO Secretary General Rasmussen announced that NATO was taking measures to enhance BAP.
Baltic Air Policing (BAP) is a standing NATO task undertaken by rotations of typically four Air Defence Fighter Aircraft from contributing nations on a four month rotation. It is purely a defensive mission.
BAP encompasses the airspace of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The Baltic countries do not have Air Defence Fighter Aircraft and therefore, NATO nations undertake the task of securing NATO’s airspace over the Baltic nations. The US is currently filling the mission rotation. The US has taken a unilateral decision to provide 6 additional US Voluntary National Contribution Air Defence assets (F-15C).