Tag Archives: Lithuania

Amid raising tension with Russia NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft visit eastern Europe

After Russia moved nuclear-capable missiles to NATO’s doorstep, NATO surveillance planes make cameo visit to Eastern Europe. And celebrate 1,000 missions.

On Oct. 11, a NATO E-3A AWACS visited Amari airbase, Estonia. Two days later another E-3 flew to  Siauliai, Lithuania: symbolic moves, that shows the alliance’s commitment to maintaining a persistent presence in Eastern Europe, where Russia has recently deployed nuclear-capable missiles.

The visit to Siauliai airbase, in Lithuania, main operating base of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) mission was preceded by a presentation of the NATO E-3 AWACS component E-3A at the 1st Airlift Base of the Polish Air Force in Warsaw. A visit that marked the surveillance plane’s 1,000th operational flight at NATO’s eastern flank since the beginning of Ukraine crisis.

The Boeing surveillance aircraft, one of the 16 E-3A AWACS planes based at Geilenkirchen, in Germany, was welcome to Warsaw by F-16 and MiG-29 jet fighters from the 31 and 23 Airbases of the Polish Air Force.

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Besides the Director of the Arms Policy Department, Col. Karol Dymanowski, the E-3 visit to Poland was the opportunity to celebrate the 1,000 sorties of the NATO’s primary Airborne Early Warning & Control platform in eastern Europe with a meeting attended by Deputy Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, Div. Gen. Jan Śliwka, commander of the Geilenkirchen NATO E-3A Component Brig. Gen. Karsten Stoye, along with the crew of the AWACS aircraft.

Interestingly, 5 members of the multinational aircrew were Polish.

E-3A Sentry aircraft have been operating inside the Polish airspace since the 2000. Once Poland joined the NAPMO (NATO Early Warning and Control Program Management Organization) program, along with 15 other countries, Warsaw acquired a right to use the fleet of the 17 AWACS platforms that remain at the NATO’s disposal. Besides Geilenkirchen, the jets are also authorized to use the Polish airbases, such as the Powidz 33rd Airlift Base which is visited by them quite frequently.

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AWACS airframes were involved in operations over Poland for the first time during the Fruit Fly/Eagle Talon exercise back in 2006, which was the first exercise with the participation of Sentry, following the acquisition of the F-16 Block 52+ jets, ten years ago On the other hand, the Geilenkirchen-based aircraft also provide support in organization of mass events, such as the Euro Football Cup organized back in 2012, or the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

This year, E-3A component participated in and supported the ANAKONDA-16 exercise, NATO Summit in Warsaw and the World Youth Day, as well as the Baltic Air Policing operation. According to the release issued by the Polish MoD, the Geilenkirchen component has also been closely cooperating with the Polish fighter pilots of the 1st and 2nd Tactical Aviation Wings, since 2015.

The operations undertaken by the airborne radar are also tied to a number of NATO initiatives, including the aforementioned BAP mission as well as the rotational presence of the NATO forces in the region, within the framework of the Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The E-3A airborne radar is available to the member states during the crisis, as well as during the exercises concerning the IADS (Integrated Air Defense System) or other significant allied training initiatives.

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Image credit: Foto Poork’s Wojciech Mazurkiewicz

 

U.S. Air Force F-22s deploy to Lithuania (as an RC-135W patrols the Baltic Sea)

Two Raptors have arrived at Siauliai Air Base, in Lithuania.

According to the information released by the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius, (two) F-22 stealth fighter jets have deployed to Siauliai Air Base, on Apr. 27.

Supported by a KC-135R (“Quid 177”), the F-22s (MONGL01 and 02) landed at the main NATO BAP (Baltic Air Patrol) airbase in Lithuania.

The aircraft belong to the contingent of 12 Raptors from 95th FS from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, currently deployed to Europe and it’s still not clear how long they will remain there.

On Apr. 25, two F-22s deployed to a Romanian airbase on the Black Sea coast for a quick visit.

Interestingly, as noted by Interfax, the aircraft deployed more or less as an RC-135W from RAF Mildenhall carried out a routine (intelligence gathering) mission over the Baltic Sea using radio callsign “Abilo 71”.

On April 14, a U.S. Air Force RC-135  flying a routine mission (in international airspace) over the Baltic Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27 that performed a barrel roll over the American electronic intelligence gathering aircraft.

 

Air-to-Air with the Hungarian Gripens involved in the Baltic Air Policing Operation

Up close and personal with the HuAF Gripens.

Taken by Filip Modrzejewski, editor in chief of the Foto Poork website, these amazing photos show two of the Hungarian JAS-39M Gripen jets taking part in the Baltic Air Policing operation as seen from a Lithuanian C-27J Spartan.

The mission of patrolling the Baltic skies has been intensified by NATO since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis amid growing tensions with Russia. The main aim of the operation is to bolster and expand the air defense capabilities of the Baltic Republics (Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia), that are in possession of limited military inventory and unable to guard their sovereign airspace alone.

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This rotation of the Baltic Air Policing deployment began on Aug. 31.

Hungary acts as the lead nation, operating its jets from the Šiauliai airbase, while additional support is being provided by the German Eurofighters, stationed – as usually – at the Ämari airbase in Estonia.

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As Filip Modrzejewski told us, this photo-shoot was especially challenging, since the airspace was cloudy up to FL240, and the only gap between the cloud layers could have been found at 4 000 feet, where the pictures were taken.

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The plan foresaw that the Gripens would be joined by the German Eurofighters, flying from Amari, however the Germans joined the formation briefly before leaving again for their deployment base where the weather was quickly deteriorating. The Luftwaffe’s jets were forced to return to Estonia at a supersonic speed!

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Images Credit: Filip Modrzejewski (Foto Poork)

Polish Air Force Mig-29 and Royal Air Force Typhoon jets on Baltic Alert

Polish Fulcrums and British Eurofighter Typhoons provide Baltic Air Policing from Lithuania.

The RAF and the Polish Air Force have taken over the four-month rotation of Baltic Air Policing since the beginning of the month.

The task, usually undertaken with four fighter planes, aims to provide air defense for those NATO member states that have no fighter jets of their own to secure their airspaces: Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

The RAF has committed to the operation four Typhoon FGR4 aircraft, whereas the Polish Air Force has deployed four Mig-29 Fulcrum fighters. Both contingents operate from Siauliai Air Base, Lithunia, where the two air forces occupy areas located at the opposite ends of the runway.

The aircraft are kept armed and ready to take-off as quickly as possible in what is known Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service.

NATO planes deployed to Lithuania, are often scrambled to intercept Russian planes flying to/from Kaliningrad oblast, performing long-range missions around Scandinavia and the British Isles, or simply spying in the Baltic.

Tension is quite high in this period: the already frequent close encounters between NATO interceptors and Russian planes have become even more frequent, since Russia invaded Crimea.

On May 15, Mig-29 jets scrambled to intercept two Russian Air Force Su-27s over the Baltic Sea.

RAF pilots taking part in the Baltic Air Policing have already flown QRA missions from the UK, as pilot Flight Lieutenant Tim Pye, a member of 3(Fighter) Squadron who are the lead squadron on the deployment, explained on the RAF website:

“My first interception was of a pair of Russian Tu-22 Backfire bombers approaching UK airspace which was both tense and exciting at the same time. I also scrambled against two Russian Navy Su-27 Flankers launched from an aircraft carrier but on that occasion the fighters turned away as we approached.”

The Polish and Royal Air Force detachments have taken over the task from the U.S. Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing and their F-15C Eagle aircraft.

Image credit: NATO

 

U.S. Air Force F-15C jets intercept Russian spyplane over the Baltic

U.S. F-15Cs performing Baltics Air Policing were scrambled on Monday to intercept a Russian Il-20.

According to the Latvia’s Military, the U.S. Air Force F-15C deployed to Šiauliai, Lithuania, to provide Air Policing in the Baltics region, intercepted an Il-20 spyplane.

Russian Air Force missions in the area often requires NATO jet fighters to perform Alert Scrambles, to intercept Il-20 spyplanes, Tu-22M Backfire bombers and Su-27 fighter jets. Such close encounters have become a bit more frequent since Russian invasion of Crimea and subsequent international crisis over Ukraine.

On Feb. 24, two F-15Cs taking part to a flyby in Estonia were diverted to intercept a Russian plane before overflying the city of Pärnu.

On Apr. 25, two Tu-95H bombers were intercepted by RAF Typhoons, Dutch and Danish F-16s during a long range patrol around UK.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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