News

2017.08.31 10:32

U.S. deploys seven fighter planes to Šiauliai Air Base

Algirdas Acus2017.08.31 10:32

The Unites States started NATO’s Baltic air police mission, on Wednesday, with an extra number of jet fighters aimed to patrol the skies over the Baltics, as Russia gears up for major military drills Zapad.

Cody Blake, Chief of US team that will carry NATO’s Baltic air police mission in Šiauliai, took a symbolic key of the rotating mission from his Polish counterpart Piotr Ostrouch. NATO has been guarding Baltic skies since 2004, when Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined the Alliance, but lacked the air power to monitor their own airspace.

Chief of the Polish team that has just concluded his mission, Piotr Ostrouch, refused to say how many scrambles Polish team did while intercepting Russian aircraft, but ‘the number has been increasing in the last two months’. Russia gears up for a massive military exercise ‘Zapad 2017’ that will also take place in neighbouring Belarus. The drills will start in two weeks. ‘We are not going to alter our missions or our posture in any way during the exercises,’ said chief of US team Cody Blake.

His team brought seven F-15 fighter jets in Lithuania’s northern Šiauliai military air base. Poland ran patrols using four jets over the last four-month rotation. ‘It has to do with increasing our training opportunities and increasing our capabilities’ responded Tod Wolters who is a commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command. Lithuanian intelligence has warned that the Russian exercise scenario will simulate an armed conflict with NATO, but Moscow on Tuesday insisted the drills will be purely defensive and not directed against any specific enemy.

According to Russian Deputy Minister of Defence, Alexander Fomin, the drills will involve 12,700 troops, but critics, Lithuania included, claim there could be as many as 100,000. NATO has also deployed about 1,000 soldiers in each of the Baltic States and Poland, in response to growing concern over Russian intentions after Moscow's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Jets fly above Šiauliai air base

Sound bite (English)

TOD WOLTERS, Commander of NATO’s Allied Air Command:

(Reporter asks if it is related with Zapad exercises.) It has to do with increasing our training opportunities and increasing our capabilities. Polish team gives a symbolic key of air police mission to US team.

 Sound bite (English)

CODY BLAKE, Chief of US team that will carry Baltic air police mission in Šiauliai:

We expect no difference at all. We are going to continue the same posture. We are not going to alter our missions or our posture in any way during the exercises.

Cutaway

Sound bite (English)

CODY BLAKE, Chief of US team that will carry Baltic air police mission in Šiauliai:

This US is fifth time here for Baltic air police mission, but I do believe this is the first time we had this amount of airplanes here, yes. More shots from ceremony marking the transfer of the air police mission

Sound bite (English)

PIOTR OSTROUCH, Chief of Polish team that carried Baltic air police mission in Šiauliai:

I don’t want to say how many scrambles we had, Ok? But it was increasing in the last time. That’s true. For the last two months.