Czech Gripen fighter jets will patrol Lithuanian airspace from the beginning of April until the end of July, the Czech Army announced via its website on Wednesday.
Five JAS-39 Gripen jets and up to 95 troops will be deployed in the NATO Air Policing mission, which provides airspace protection to the NATO states without their own supersonic air force, for the seventh time. It will be the fourth mission of the Czech fighter jets in the Baltics.
The purpose of the mission is to monitor and protect the airspace of the Baltic states. Czech soldiers will replace Poles currently guarding Lithuanian airspace, with the Czech contingent cooperating with the Spanish air force at the airport in Šiauliai, Lithuania.
Four aircraft and one backup with standard armament will be deployed. As they will also fly over the sea and cooperate with the navy, Czech pilots will have special equipment at their disposal, such as neoprene clothing.
The Czech Republic has been involved in guarding the airspace of NATO member states since 2009, being deployed to both the Baltics and Iceland on three occasions. In total, almost 350 Czech troops have been involved in these missions.
The first Czech Air Policing mission took place in Lithuania, where Czech soldiers will return this spring. The Czech troops were last deployed in Lithuania back in September 2012.
“The high commitment of Czech fighters is also evidenced by the fact that during their mission, they carried out 15 sharp takeoffs, flying 326 hours in 298 flights,” said Deputy Commander of the Air Force Petr Lanči at the time.
Czech fighter jets last guarded the airspace over one of the Baltic countries from September to December 2019, when they operated with four aircraft from the Estonian base of Ämari.
“Our pilots spent hundreds of hours in the air and carried out 13 sharp takeoffs, intervening against aircraft that did not comply with the rules of international air traffic. On this task, the Czechs cooperated with the Danish and Belgian air forces, which operated with F-16 aircraft from the Lithuanian base Šiauliai,” the troops’ commander Pavel Pavlík reported after the 2019 mission.