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.
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.
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.
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.
So far in 2014, NATO fighter jets scrambled roughly 400 times in response to increased Russian air activity near Europe, NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday 20 November during a visit to Estonia. The Baltic Air Policing mission alone performed more than 100 intercepts.
The number on intercepts near the Baltics is three times higher than in 2013, while NATO scrambles in total are 50 percent higher than last year. Stoltenberg described the Russian pattern as ‘risky and unjustified’, and remarked that ‘NATO continues to remain vigilant’. On his journey to Estonia, Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) F-16s operating from Malbork in Poland, escorted the aircraft that brought Stoltenberg to Estonia. See here for a pic.
NATO sounded the alarm bell over Russian airborne movements earlier this fall. See here for a quick round up of known intercepts. It would be interesting to know how exactly the number of 400 scrambles holds up against the yearly number of intercepts during the heights of the Cold War.
Later on Thursday, the NATO secretary general met Estonian, American and German troops at Ämari Air Base, home of part of the Baltic quick reaction alert (QRA).