Tag Archives: Ämari

War games as usual over the Baltic Sea

While NATO, Sweden and Finland are jointly engaged in large scale military exercises on the Baltic Sea coasts and in the countries neighbouring Russia, it is business as usual in the air above the Northern European waters with Russia sending up bombers and escorts, and the opposing side scrambling fighter jets.

Last week was somewhat special. The stars and stripes were promoted big time by two US Air Force B-52H bombers dropping training sea mines off the coast of Skåne in Southern Sweden. They were escorted by at least four Swedish Air Force Gripen fighter jets. The training mission, with the Buffs flying in from the United Kingdom, was part of the large scale Baltops 2015 exercise (5 – 20 June), that also saw Swedish and US Marines landing on the Scandinavian coast using the USS San Antonio as main floating base. Baltops 2015 also marked the first time the B-52s were on a real operational training mission inside Swedish air space.

The last couple of days saw the more usual suspects. Russian aircraft gave acte de presence in international airspace bordering Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Denmark.

Royal Air Force Typhoons came home with nice pictures of a pair of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-31 Foxhound long-distance interceptors. Saab JAS 39 Gripen planes of the Swedish Air Force shadowed a pair of Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers escorted by two MiG-31s twice in 24 hours, as the Russian Air Force package was making a routine flight from the St. Petersburg area over the Baltic Sea towards Kaliningrad.

Baltic Air Policing
NATO planes at Ämari in Estonia and/or Šiauliai in Lithuania and/or Malbork in Poland also scramble to intercept a Ilyushin IL-20 at least on one occasion. The recon/spy plane is a regular for the NATO jets. The more specials of this week were a Iluyshin / Beriev A-50 AWACS and an Antonov AN-26. Currently the Baltic Air Policing mission on the three bases mentioned, is run by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) and the Belgian Air Component – both each with 4 F-16AM Fighting Falcons – plus the Royal Air Force and the Italian Air Force – both each with 4 Eurofighter EF2000 / Typhoon jets.

Saber Strike
Meanwhile NATO forces “attacked” a military airfield, Swidwin Airbase in Poland, as part of the multinational exercise Saber Strike 2015 (8 – 19 June) that includes the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as well. The Saber Strike airfield assault that included a paradrop was meant to prep ground and air forces for a possible combined operation of the future.

Raptors
In an attempt to keep things at bay in that future the US policy makers are now even considering sending half or a whole squadron of F-22A Raptor air-supiority stealth fighters to the other side of the Atlantic, but neither a time schedule or a possible base of operations has been revealed.

Looks like the start of a warm Summer in usually cold Northern Europe.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): A MiG-31 in earlier action (Image © Olga Balashova / Russian Air Force)

More details on European USAF operations

The US Air Force has released more details on coming deployment of military aircraft to Europe. The deployments come on top of the current deployment of A-10 tank killers to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. Air National Guard (ANG) F-15s and F-16s will also head to Europe, along with U.S. Air Force Reserve Command A-10s.

The arrival of F-15s was announced earlier, but details now also reveal what these Eagles are up to while in Europe. The F-15s participate in exercise Thracian Eagle this spring at Graf Ignatievo Air Base in Bulgaria, plus Exercise Saber Strike and Baltic operations this summer in the Baltic States and Poland. Rumours about ANG F-15s taking part in Dutch exercise Frisian Flag 2015 at Leeuwarden airbase, are – for now – just that; rumours.

This spring, F-16s will fly to Ämari Air Base in Estonia and Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. Reserve A-10s are expected to go to Bulgaria. Furthermore, detachments of C-130s and F-16s will keep rotating through Powidz Air Base in Poland.

The movements are part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The US also says it takes part in exercise Eager Lion in Morocco this spring,  Anatolian Eagle in Turkey in June, plus Arctic Challenge in Norway.

In a move related to the increased USAF presence in Europe, the US Army has said it will station two dozen more UH-60 Black Hawk helos in Germany.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A US Air Force F-15 refuels from a tanker. (Image © Airman 1st Class Dana J. Butler / USAF)

That big gun in the front is what the A-10 is all about. (Image © Dennis Spronk)
One of the A-10s currently deployed in Germany. (Image © Dennis Spronk)

Spanish Eurofighters performing well

Never mind the devastating reports we have seen on the operational availability of the Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoon aircraft in Luftwaffe and Royal Air Force service. Europe’s multi-role jet fighter has a little success story to tell, with the detachment of the Spanish Air Force at Ämari Airbase in Estonia.

Four C.16s – as the Typhoons are called in Ejército del Aire service – from Ala 11 out of Morón provide part of NATO’s air cover for the Baltic republics Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since 1 January 2015. According to Spanish military sources to the nation’s leading newspaper El País the Eurofighters flew 108 patrols, clocking 200 hours of flight time and only cancelling one pre-planned sortie because of technical problems.

Like with many other NATO countries Spain has contributed to the Baltic Air Policing before, which is costing the Spanish tax payers about 9 million euros for the current engagement in Estonia that lasts until the end of May. In 2006 four Dassault C.14s (Mirage F-1s) from Ala 14 were deployed to Lithuania. The government in Madrid plans to send the next Spanish Air Force Baltic Air Policing rotation in 2016.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image: A Spanish Eurofighter C.16 in its usual habitat (Image © Ejército del Aire)

↑ See our continuing coverage of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission

Spanish Typhoons “están reportando” for Baltic Air Policing

The Spanish Air Force has reported for duty at Ämari Airbase in Estonia, for their tour of the Baltic Air Policing mission. Four Eurofighter C.16 (EF2000) Typhoons from Ala 11 left Morón Airbase in the early morning of 29 December and headed north.

The Spanish detachment is a 114 men and women strong, and was during its build-up supported by a Boeing T.17 (707) of 471 Esc. from Torrejon and a Lockheed T.10 (C-130) of 311 Esc. from Zaragoza.

As of 1 January 2015 the Ejército del Aire has taken over the air defence ops in Estonia from the Luftwaffe. The Germans also flew the Eurofighters till New Year. Like with the other NATO rotations at Šiauliai in Lithuania (Italian EF2000s and Polish MiG-29s) and Malbork in Poland (Belgian F-16s) the Spanish Typhoons will operate under control of the Command Air Component NATO (AIRCOM) based at Ramstein in Germany. Main mission: to keep track of and intercept the many Russian military flights that have been showing up even inside NATO and Scandinavian airspace the last couple of years.

According to the Ejército del Aire the Spanish Typhoons deployed now have been training for their mission in November at Lanzarote. Like with many other NATO countries Spain has contributed to the Baltic Air Policing before. In 2006 four Dassault C.14s (Mirage F-1s) from Ala 14 were deployed to Lithuania. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania don’t have any fighter aircraft themselves. That’s why NATO provides the air cover to these member states, like it also does on Iceland.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger

↑ See our continuing coverage of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission

Spanish Typhoon and crew preparing for departure to Northern Europe on 29 December 2014 at Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Spanish Typhoon and crew preparing for departure to Northern Europe on 29 December 2014 at Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Hasta la vista Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Hasta la vista Morón (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A happy looking bunch about to board a Spanish Air Force T.10 (C-130) heading for Ämari in the Baltics  (Image © Ejército del Aire)
A happy looking bunch about to board a Spanish Air Force T.10 (C-130) heading for Ämari in the Baltics (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Ground and support personnel boarding the Spanish Air Force T.17 - or Boeing 707 - to bring them to Estonia (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Ground and support personnel boarding the Spanish Air Force T.17 – or Boeing 707 – to bring them to Estonia (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Two of four Spanish Typhoons reporting for duty at Ämari, Estonia, on 29 December 2014. (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Two of four Spanish Typhoons reporting for duty at Ämari, Estonia, on 29 December 2014. (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Take-off from Morón on 29 December 2014 (Image © Ejército del Aire)
Take-off from Morón on 29 December 2014 (Image © Ejército del Aire)

New guardians of the Baltic

After this week’s news of the Dutch ending their shift in the Baltic Air Policing mission, full details have emerged about contries and aircraft that will guard NATO’s north eastern flank the coming months.

As reported, Belgian F-16s will take the place of the Dutch F-16s in Malbork, Poland. Italian Eurofighter Typhoons will position themselves in Šiauliai, Lithuania, replacing Portuguese F-16s. In turn MiG-29 Fulcrums from Poland will also fly to Šiauliai, relieving Canadian CF-188 Hornets.

Finaly, Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons will fly to Ämari, Estonia, where they will take the place of German Typhoons. Meanwhile a pair of Hungarian Air Force SAAB JAS 39 Gripen jets were warming up in the 2nd week of December for their upcoming deployment in Estonia from September to December 2015.

According to sources within the Baltics, the fortified NATO mission should last at least another year, following reportedly increased Russian military air activity of late.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum-A taking off from Berlin-Schönefeld during an airshow in 2008. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Polish Air Force MiG-29 Fulcrum-A seen during an airshow in 2008. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head to head with Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Head to head with an Italian Air Force Typhoon. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Belgian F-16s will guard Dutch skies and vice versa from 2016 on. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Belgian F-16AM. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick 'm up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Stick ‘m up! (Image © Elmer van Hest)