Commentary NATO

Czech fighter jets to patrol skies over Baltic

Fulfilling its commitments to NATO, Czech Gripen fighters will patrol Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian airspace from September.

Five Czech Gripen fighters and 95 military officers will leave for Ämari, Estonia in three weeks. The Czech army will boost NATO´s presence in the Baltic, joining the Danish and Belgian missions already deployed in the region.

The North Atlantic Alliance increased its military presence in the Baltic States following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the start of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

“The Kaliningrad region of Russia is supplied quite intensively with Russian aviation equipment. Because of this, we can expect a higher intensity of Gripen fighter take-offs,” says Pavel Pavlík, head of the Czech Baltic Air Policing mission. He says that he expects the fighter jets to monitor the airspace twice a day.

The deployment of troops to Estonia was approved by the Czech Parliament last year. The Czech fighter pilots will take over from the British RAF, which currently guards the Baltic airspace. They will return to the Czech Republic in the first or second week of January 2020.

NATO member states take turns in guarding Estonian, Lithuanian, and Latvian airspace as these countries do not have their own supersonic aircraft. "Guarding Baltic airspace is part of fulfilling our commitments to NATO. It is proof that we are a valid and active member of the North Atlantic Alliance," Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar said.

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