On 1 December, after 15 months of consecutive and uninterrupted activity, Italy’s contribution to the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, aimed at guaranteeing constant security in the airspace of the three Baltic Republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania belonging to NATO, through the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) service, came to an end.
In order to carry out this demanding mission, the Air Force used the Eurofighter F-2000A interceptor fighter aircraft, alternating with the F-35A Lightning II multi-role fighter aircraft currently in service with the 32nd Foggia-Amendola Wing.
For the Air Force this was a real record because it was the only air force to have taken part in all NATO Air Policing missions and to have ensured such a prolonged stay in the Baltic Region bordering Russia.
Among these Air Policing missions, for example, is the air cover of Iceland, which has taken the Air Force’s Eurofighter and F-35A fighters to operate in extreme climates in the latitudes below the Arctic Circle.
Regarding the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission, the AMI initially led it in Lithuania, operating from September 2020 to April 2021 from Šiauliai Air Base with Eurofighter F-2000A aircraft.
Subsequently, the Air Force operated from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, with the enhanced Air Policing (eAP) mission running from May 2021 to the present.
But the international commitment of the Air Force to defend the skies of the Atlantic Alliance does not end here because it will continue with Operation Black Storm that will take place in Romania, with Eurofighter F-2000A aircraft.
Another important record obtained by the Air Force in the NATO Baltic Air Policing was represented by the deployment for the first time of the fifth generation Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter aircraft; the Lightning II operated in the final part of the mission in Estonia from 21 September to 1 December, the final day of operations for the Italian Air Force.
During the entire operational cycle in the Baltic skies, the Air Force aircraft logged over 1800 hours of flight time with about 70 real interception missions on alert, operations that are always risky because the successful outcome depends very much, if not entirely, on the professionalism of the pilots of the intercepted aircraft.
Moreover, for the Air Force an equally demanding test was to ensure the constant presence of ready and operational aircraft, both with the Eurofighters coming from all the Flight Groups and, above all, with the F-35As available from the only Group operational so far, bearing in mind the many important national and international training requirements to which the 32nd Wing personnel have been called to cope with the reduced number of aircraft delivered so far.
Source and photo Stato Maggiore Difesa