January 4, changeover ceremony of contingents deployed on the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission in the Šiauliai Air Base will be held.

Germany’s Air Contingent will replace air assets and personnel of Denmark after four months on guard of the Baltic skies, the incoming contingent will patrol the airspace with six single-seated F-4 Phantom fighters. The ceremony will be attended by Lithuanian, German, Estonian, and Lithuanian military delegates as well as representatives of the city and district of Šiauliai.

German Air Force will provide personnel and assets for the protection of the Baltic airspace for the fifth time.

For the preceding two times (in 2005 and 2008) Germans were patrolling with F-4F Phantom, during the third deployment in 2009 Eurofighter jets were used in the first two months and then were substituted for F-4F Phantom. The third shift (from January to April of 2011) was conducted with six F- 4F Phantom fighters.

The Air Contingent was delegated for the fifth mission by the Wittmund Air Force Base in Lower Saxony. The shift will include 110 members: pilots, technicians, medical personnel, logistic support groups, communications specialists. Unit of Fire Fighters Service deployed by the Guard Regiment of the German Air Force will also conduct duty during this rotation. The greater part of equipment and inventory necessary for the mission was brought to the Air Base on December 27. Personnel and commander of the regiment will rotate in the course of the four-month duty period. The first shift of military personnel will be commanded by Lt Col Werner Theisen.

The outgoing Air Contingent of the Danish Royal Air Force began the NATO Air Policing mission in the Baltic States in September. Denmark has been deployed on the mission for three times already.

NATO countries began deploying air personnel and assets to ensure security of the Baltic skies on March 29 of 2004 when the three Baltic States entered NATO. The first rotations of the mission lasted for three months and were taken up by Belgian, Danish, United Kingdom’s, Norway’s, Dutch, German, US, and Polish troops; in spring of 2006 a four-month duty period was introduced and implemented by Turkey, Spain, Belgium, and France.

Later a Portuguese air contingent performed duty for a month and a half, Norway’s, Poland’s, Germany’s and the United States’ air personnel – for three months, and the successive Czech, German, French, Polish and US air contingents – for four months. The outgoing Danish troops have been serving for four months, and so will the German Air Contingent to take over the mission on January 4.

On August 31 of 2010 the North Atlantic Council adopted the decision to prolong the Baltic Air Policing mission till the end of 2014. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia spires to the mission extended till 2018. The fighter-jets deployed in Šiauliai perform quick reaction alert (QRA) functions and maintain readiness to conduct alert take-offs to provide deterrent, combat or other kinds of actions against violators in the Baltic airspace.