The Czech Air Force is now responsible for protecting the airspace of the Baltic countries. Czech Gripens are therefore policing the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The NATO members Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia do not have their own supersonic fighters so Czech Gripen fighters will protect their airspace from the beginning of May until the end of August. On 1 May, the Czech 211th tactical squadron from Čáslav Air Force Base replaced a Danish unit thus marking the beginning of the first international deployment of the Czech Air Force since the Second World War.
The Czech Gripen fighters are based at Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania. Under what is referred to as NATO 24/7 Quick Reaction Alert, QRA, two Gripen aircraft are now put on standby around the clock, seven days a week, and are ready to scramble against unknown or hostile intruders, as well as to provide assistance to aircraft in distress.
Perfectly serving the needs of the Czech Air Force
“We are proud that our Gripen fighters are now policing the skies over the Baltic states. Gripen is a superior combat aircraft which perfectly serves the needs of the Czech Air Force. Gripen also enables us to shoulder our responsibilities within the NATO air policing mission,” says Petr Mikulenka, Base Commander Čáslav Air force Base.
Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been protected by NATO since 2004 and the Czech Gripens are the 20th contingent in the mission, which is planned to continue until at least 2011. The Baltic countries may extend the NATO mission until 2018.