The Baltic nations Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have all been members of NATO since 2004, but because of limited own capacities, the Alliance handles the air policing in the Baltics. This means that the other NATO partners alternate on maintaining the Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) in the Baltics.
Norway led the mission from 1 May to 31 August 2015. During the four-month period, the Norwegian Armed Forces had two F-16 fighter jets plus an additional two F-16s in reserve stationed at the Lithuanian air base in Šiauliai. Around 65 soldiers and other personnel from the Norwegian Armed Forces have been on high readiness at the base.
For the Norwegian personnel, Quick Reaction Alert is a well-known task.
"We solve this mission every day from our own air base in Bodø, Northern Norway. The difference here is that we solve it from an unknown base abroad, with the upsides and downsides that come with it. For us, the mission has been nothing but a success," says Lieutenant Colonel Andersen, detachment commander for the Norwegian forces in Lithuania.
Detachment commander Andersen. During the four-month mission, the Norwegian pilots have had 30 scrambles with a total of 50 identifications of Russian aircrafts outside Baltic airspace.
"In addition to this, we have flown more than 400 hours of training during our mission here in Lithuania," Andersen says.
The Norwegian forces have also educated and mentored ground personnel working with warning and control of Baltic airspace.
"We are good at monitoring and controlling Norwegian airspace. By teaching our skills, we make the Baltic states even better at handling this part of their defence," Andersen adds.
Norwegian security and defence depend on NATO.
"This means that the Alliance expects us to contribute when it asks for support, the same way we expect NATO to help us if we need it," says Major General Per-Egil Rygg, Inspector General for the Norwegian Air Force.
The Inspector General says it is natural for Norway to participate in the QRA mission in the Baltics.
"This mission is just as important as our QRA mission in Bodø, Northern Norway. We contribute, we show strength and we show solidarity. This mission also shows the NATO cooperation. The Alliance is present when needed, and all the members contribute," says Rygg.
Norway has previously contributed to air policing in the Baltics, in 2005 and in 2007/08. Hungary now takes over the air policing mission after Norway.
See some of the aircrafts that the Norwegian pilots have identified:
|2015-07-30 (U) SU-34 FULLBACK 001-2||2015-07-30 (U) SU-34 FULLBACK 001-2||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2015-07-30 (U) SU-34 FULLBACK 001-2.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=3593||Et norsk F-16 i forkant av fire russiske jagerfly av typen Su-34 «Fullback».||A Norwegian F-16 in front of four Russian Su-34 fighter jets, "Fullback".|
|2015-07-30 (U) MIG-31 FOXHOUND 001||2015-07-30 (U) MIG-31 FOXHOUND 001||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2015-07-30 (U) MIG-31 FOXHOUND 001.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=3592||Fire russiske jagerfly av typen Mig-31 «Foxhound».||Four Russian Mig-31 fighter jets, "Foxhound".|
|2015-08-14 (U) IL-20 COOT A||2015-08-14 (U) IL-20 COOT A||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2015-08-14 (U) IL-20 COOT A.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=3594||Et russisk overvåkningsfly med betegnelsen IL-20 «Coot A».||A Russian surveillance aircraft, IL-20 "Coot A".|
|2015-08-15 (U) AN-26 CURL||2015-08-15 (U) AN-26 CURL||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2015-08-15 (U) AN-26 CURL.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=3595||Et russisk transportfly. Antonov An-26 «Curl».||A Russian transport aircraft. Antonov An-26, "Curl".|
|2015-08-15 (U) SU-24 FENCER D||2015-08-15 (U) SU-24 FENCER D||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/2015-08-15 (U) SU-24 FENCER D.jpg||http://forsvaret.no/media/PubImages/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=3596||Et russisk jagerfly av typen Su-24 «Fencer D».||A Russian fighter jet Su-24, "Fencer D".|