Spain takes over NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia
The Spanish Air Force (SAF) took over NATO's rotating Baltic Air Policing mission at Ämari, replacing the UK's RAF which has been patrolling the skies for the last few months.
This will be the SAF's third stint in Estonia since 2014 and it has returned with Eurofighter Typhoons, twin-engine fighter jets built as a joint project by Germany, Italy, Spain, and Great Britain.
The patrol is on call 24/7 and carries out reconnaissance and training flights when necessary.
Baltic airspace is guarded by the mission as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania do not have their own fighter jets.
The scheme started in 2004 in Lithuania, soon after the three countries joined NATO, and expanded to Estonia in 2014.
The Italian Air Force is currently based at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.
Spain's NASAMS air defense system is also currently stationed in Estonia and training to «smoothly transition from air security to an air defense posture», said Kusti Salm, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defense, in a statement.
At last month's summit in Vilnius NATO allies agreed on a new defense strategy for the eastern flank.
Spain takes off in Estonia: the details of the mission at the gates of Russia
Spanish rotating mission began, as part of NATO surveillance tasks.
Spain began its new NATO air police mission. The operation is especially relevant because it involves Estonia, a country belonging to the Atlantic alliance and bordering Russia.
Eight Eurofighter fighter planes belonging to the Air and Space Army are deployed in the Baltic country. Until November 30, the date scheduled for the end of the Spanish mission, they will have their headquarters at the Ämari air base, far in the north of the country.
They will not be the only Spanish aircraft, since in the coming days an A400M transport plane will arrive to carry out in-flight refueling tasks.
The nine aircraft are the mainstay of the 'Ambar' Tactical Air Detachment, made up of 130 aviators, mainly from the 11th Wing, with the support of personnel from twelve other units of the Air and Space Army. In addition, 35 soldiers will be part of the A400M support deployment from August 12 to September 15.
Spain takes over the surveillance of allied airspace from the United Kingdom's Eurofighters. It is the second time that the 11th Wing aircraft have deployed in Estonia to preserve the security of the Alliance's airspace, the first was during the first quarter of 2015.
According to Defense, this participation demonstrates «the capacity for projection, responsibility, solidarity and commitment to collective defense and shared security» of Spain and its allies.
The one in Estonia is one of the 17 international missions in which the Spanish Army currently participates, with points as distant as Mozambique, Iraq, Mali or Colombia, in addition to others in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
Spain has participated in this operation on a rotating basis for years to protect the Baltic sky from possible incursions by other unidentified aircraft, mostly from Russia.
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 'threats' and complaints of violations of allied airspace by Russian aircraft have multiplied. Also in Estonia, as the Baltic country denounced last summer.
Russia squeezes the Spanish fighters
Russian aircraft trigger alerts at the Estonian Ämari air base.
The Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon fighters of the Air and Space Army, deployed in the Baltic Republics, are working at a frenetic pace over Russia. Every three days alerts sound in the hangars of the Estonian Ämari air base and they go on a mission to intercept and identify Russian military aircraft that enter the airspace of the three countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), therefore they would be breaking the laws aviation internationals.
Captain Franco of the Air Force has explained to the acting Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, the work of the 10 real interception sorties during their first month of deployment.
It all started last June when the Spanish Armed Forces deployed the Ámbar detachment (name of the Spanish fighter deployment) at the Estonian air base, made up of 8 Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets and 130 military personnel, with the aim of protecting space. of the Baltic Republics, which do not have sufficient means to guarantee it.
When they joined the Atlantic Alliance in 2004 they reached an agreement for other partners of the supranational organization to guarantee them air protection on a rotating basis. The main threat is the bombers and military aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Force that violate the airspace of these countries when they fly between Russia and the Kaliningrad exclave, violating international aviation standards by not notifying the flight and flying with the transponder turned off.
The other Spanish plane in Estonia
The Eurofighter Typhoon fighter is not the only deployment of the Armed Forces in the Baltic. On August 15, an A400-M plane from the Air Force was deployed, accompanied by 30 soldiers from the 31st Wing of Zaragoza, along with a NASAMS anti-aircraft missile battery that will remain there until next December.
On the other hand, there is a group of 600 Spanish troops in the NATO multinational combat group.