Italy has taken over the role of lead nation in the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP).
On Dec. 29, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets deployed to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, to take over the lead role of NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the Portuguese Air Force F-16s beginning on Jan. 1, 2015.
Polish MiG-29s and Spanish Eurofighters deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, and Ämari, Estonia, respectively; they will replace four CF-188s of the Royal Canadian Air Force, four German Air Force Eurofighters out of Ämari, Estonia. The four Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16s out of Malbork, Poland will replaced by the Belgian Air Force F-16s.
With their first participation to the BAP, Italy has become the very first nation to provide air policing tasks over four foreign airspaces: Iceland (on rotation), Slovenia, Albania (task shared with the Hellenic Air Force) and Baltic States.
The Italian Typhoons landed at Siauliai carrying 3 external fuel tanks, 3 IRIS-T and 4 AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles: an interesting, heavy, configuration.
Aircraft providing BAP, in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) at their deployment bases are often scrambled to intercept, identify and escort Russian Air Force planes (including spyplanes and bombers) flying in international airspace close to the airspaces of Baltic States and NATO countries.