The US Air Force will patrol the airspace over the Baltic states for four months starting from January, Lithuanian media reported Friday, citing the country’s military. Four US F-15C Eagle fighter jets will replace the current Belgian F-16AM Fighting Falcons on a rotation basis.
A round-the-clock mission to guard the airspace over Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia has been conducted since 2004 when the ex-Soviet republics joined NATO. The three states say they do not have their own air assets to ensure safety and security of national and NATO airspace.
Patrols have been carried out on a three- to four-month rotation basis by 14 NATO states, including Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Norway and Poland from Lithuania’s first air base in Zokniai, near the northern city of Siauliai.
Deployments usually comprise four fighter planes and between 50 and 100 support personnel. The three Baltic countries reportedly pay some $4 million per year to cover the deployment expenses.