Skip to comments.NATO to triple Baltic air patrol from next month
Posted on 04/09/2014 11:23:21 PM PDT by wetphoenix
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO will triple its usual number of fighter jets patrolling over the Baltics next month to beef up its eastern European defenses due to tension with Russia over Ukraine, a NATO military official said on Tuesday.
Four NATO fighters are usually based in the Baltics but the United States, which currently has responsibility for patrolling the skies there, increased that to 10 F-15s to reassure those states following Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimea region.
The number of fighters assigned to the Baltic "air policing" mission is now set to increase further to 12, three times the normal complement, when the next four-month period starts in May, the NATO military official said.
The strengthening of air patrols over the Baltics is part of a plan of air, land and sea reinforcements for central and eastern European allies that NATO's top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, is drawing up by April 15.
Since the three ex-Soviet republics in the Baltics joined NATO in 2004, other NATO members have taken turns sending fighter aircraft to protect their airspace since Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania lack fighters of their own.
The jets are on call to respond to any violations of Baltic airspace. Lithuania said last week the number of Russian jets flying close enough to Baltic airspace this year to prompt NATO jets being scrambled has increased to around one a week.
Poland takes over responsibility for providing Baltic air policing from May 1, offering four MiG 29s.
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