France AAE Rafale EC02 030 Baltic Air Policing 1 640French Air Force Rafale deploy in Lithuania

On 25 November 2022, the Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE, French Air and Space Force) 30e escadre de chasse (EC-30, 30th fighter wing) from Base Aérienne 118 Mont-de-Marsan air base started its deployment of four Dassault Rafale F3R fighter aircraft and around one hundred personnel to Šiauliai air base (Lithuania) for a period of four months as part of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.

The detachment has sent six pilots with four fighter aircraft. The Rafales arrived in Lithuania to relieve four Saab JAS39C Gripen fighter from the Magyar Légierö (HuAF, Hungarian Air Force).

The ferry flight took around three hours at an altitude of approximately 13,000 meters. Each aircraft left with 5,300 litres of fuel, plus three 1,250-liter tanks hung under the aircraft. Despite this, refuelling was scheduled over France before entering Germany.

The technical staff joined by an Airbus A400M one day earlier, and the heavy echelon, including the specialised equipment, left on 16 November 2022 by rail. In total, 60 tons of material distributed in about 50 containers are expected to arrive in Lithuania on 5 December.

France AAE Rafale EC02 030 Baltic Air Policing 3 320France AAE Rafale EC02 030 Baltic Air Policing 2 320The Rafales F3Rs will carry out patrols in Lithuania and operational missions on the eastern flank of NATO. The patrol flights started on 1 December. In the air force video, one can see the fighters equipped with a target designation and infrared imaging pod, and MICA EM and IR missiles. Given the quality of the images, it could be a Damocles or TALIOS pod.

As of early December, Lithuania is already covered with snow showing a contrast with the Les Landes sweetness of the Mont-de-Marsan air base. As can be seen on the photos, the Rafales carry unit markings from Escadron de Chasse 2/30 Normandie-Niemen (EC02.030) and Escadron de Chasse 3/30 Lorraine (EC03.030). This unit is notable as one of only three units from Western Allied countries to see combat on the Eastern Front during Worl War II and was the only Western Allied unit which fought with Soviet forces until the end of the war in Europe.

The last NATO Baltic Air Policing tour for the French Air Force was in Ämari (Estonia) from March to July 2022 operating four Mirage 2000-5F.

Photos by Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace

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