Italian Air Force F-35 Lightning II landed at Ämari airbase, in Estonia, on 30 April to take over the security of Baltic airspace. This will be the first time the fifth generation multi-role fighters take part in the Baltic Air Security Mission as a part of the “Baltic Eagle II” mission.
The rotation ceremony for NATO’s Baltic Air Security Mission took place on Monday, 3 May, at Amari Air Force Base. The ceremony was attended by Estonian Defense Minister Kalle Laanet and Italian Deputy Defense Minister Giorgio Mulé.
The Italian F-35 fighters have replaced the delta wing fighter planes, the Eurofighter Typhoons of the German Air Force that have been deployed in Ämari since the end of August.
The various Air Forces of NATO member states have been alternately protecting the airspace of the three young members of the Atlantic Alliance which are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since 29 March 2004, as they do not yet have a complete air defense system in place.
The Baltic Air Policing and missions serving a similar purpose are important not only for member states to have equal protection against threats, but also for future member states to notice the solidarity and stability of NATO.
The numerous NATO fighter planes protecting the Baltic airspace have to frequently carry out interception activities in order to stop Russian jets approaching Baltic airspace, without complying with international aviation safety rules.
A NATO Air Command capability was created at the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania when the three Baltic States joined NATO in 2004. Due to NATO’s Assurance Measures for the Eastern Allies, a second Air Command was established at the Estonya-Ämari Air Base following Russia’s unlawful annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Since Estonia joined NATO in 2004, this will be the Italian Air Force’s second tour. The Aeronautica Militare last visited Ämari in 2018.
At the same time, the Italian Typhoons ended their rotation in Siauliai, Lithuania, after 8 months of Baltic airspace policing leadership.