France completes air policing mission in the Baltic states
For a period of five months, the Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE, French Air and Space Force) Escadron de Chasse 1/2 (EC01.002), was repsonsible for NATO's Air Policing Task at Ämari air base (Estonia).
The unit's four Mirage 2000-5F fighter aircraft, which had succeeded the Belgische Luchtmacht (BLu, Belgian Air Force) F-16 Fighting Falcons *), flew more than 800 hours during five months. During their mandate, they responded to about twenty Alpha-Scramble types of "real alert" triggers, engaging two of the four fighters each time. These alerts aimed at verifying the identity and behaviour of suspicious aircraft, and contributed to the protection of the airspace of the three Baltic States.
The high number of hours flown is explained by the frequency of inter-allied training flights (90 in total) during the exerxises Ramstein Alloy 22 and Hedgehog, as well as by sorties carried out in the framework of NATO's enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA) system and border surveillance flights.
The Luftwaffe (GAF, German Air Force) has officially taken over the responsibility of NATO's enhanced Air Policing from the AAE. On 3 August 2022, GAF Eurofighters conducted an Alpha Scramble on day 1 of their mission, supporting enhanced Air Policing out of Ämari. The EC01.002 Mirages have been replaced by four Eurofighters.
The Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 71 (TLG71) Richthofen Eurofighters are deployed under the 60th Baltic Air Policing rotation. They will augment the Magyar Légierö (HuAF, Hungarian Air Force) Saab 39 Gripen fighters leading the mission out of Šiauliai Air Base (Lithuania), where the task passed on 29 July 2022.
The Mirage 2000-5Fs belong to l'escadron des Cigognes (EC01.002), which has been based at the Base Aérienne 116 (BA116) Luxeuil/St.Sauveur in eastern France since 2015. Commissioned in 1999, the Mirage 2000-5F is a modernised 2000C which has the RDY radar and carries the MICA missile with electromagnetic and infrared guidance.
The four Mirages that arrived at Ämari air base on 13 March 2022 were: 59/2-EV, 62/2-ED, 67/2-MH and 77/2-AX.
*) Because of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, the Belgian mission was extended. The enhanced Air Policing (eAP) task was taken over by France in April 2022, the Belgian detachment has since been executing the enhanced Vigilance Activities (eVA) mission. This misson ended on 1 August.
Photos by Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace