Poland takes over air defense of Baltic States
Since 1 January 2006, Poland will take over the responsibility for air defense of Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). Since those countries became members of NATO, the other countries have deployed a four-fighters flight tasked with air policing of the Baltic States airspace. First two MiG-29s deployed on 27 December, next two are to follow-up shortly. Two fighters will maintain continues 7/24 QRA ground alert for next three months.
Polish contingent consists of 4 MiG-29 fighters armed with R-27R, R-73 and R-60M missiles, 6 pilots, 4 GCI navigators, 10 planners/staff officers and 40 ground personnel (maintenance, meteo, armament specialists etc.). The aircraft will station at Siauliai – Zokniai airbase and will replace USAF detachment. On 31 March Polish MiG-29 will be replaced by Turkish detachment.
Since some time Russian air force occasionally tests the air defense of Baltic States. It started on 15 September 2005, when a Russian Su-27 crashed in Lithuania, when its pilot lost the geographical orientation. The German F-4F took off with delay and arrived on spot after the Russian fighter crash. During the German detachment, Russian aircraft violated the Baltic States airspace eight times.
Of course the four fighters is not adequate air defense in case of any hostile action, but is an important element of peace-time air policing. It is enough to make sure that the Baltic States’ airspace is not freely used by any other country at will. It also helps to integrate the air defense system, which is presently built up. It already consists of three Lockheed AN/TPS-117 long range radars and number of smaller and older types radars provided by Norway. The air defense is controlled by Regional Airspace Surveillance Coordination Center (RASCC), deployed in Karmelava, Lithuania (for all Baltic states). Polish fighters will report to that center (tactical control) and to Air Operations Center in Pyry near Warsaw (command and logistics matters). The detachment is provided by 1st Tactical Fighter Squadron from Minsk Mazowiecki. For the first time new NATO member (former WP country) will take over the task of air defense of Baltic States.