On the 31st of December 4 of Polish F-16C Falcon multirole aircraft, landed in the 1stAirforce Base in Šiauliai, Latvia. Planes took off from the 31stBase in Poznan-Krzesiny. This rotation was the 49th of the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission. Formal handover of the airspace responsibility happened on the 3rd of January.
Polish aircrafts will replace the Belgian F-16AMs`. Belgian Falcons were present in Lithuania for 4 months. Belgium was also the first country to have a constant presence in Latvia after 2004 to effect the BAP missions. Additionally, Polish planes will be supplemented with Portuguese F-16AM. This will happen in March 2019 and Portuguese planes will be based in the 22ndBase in Malbork, Poland.
F-16Cs` are armed with a short-range AIM-9X Sidewinder and medium range AIM-120C-5 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles. Polish planes will be supported by 5 of the German Eurofighter Typhoon planes, based in Amari base in Estonia. Luftwaffe took over responsibilities of the French Dassault Mirage 2000-5Fs` and will effect the BAP mission until the end April 2019.
This will be the 8thmission of Polish Air Force in the Baltic States and the second where the multirole F-16C will be utilized. Previously, as a part of PMC Orlik 7, four of Polish F16 guarded the European airspace together with Spanish C-15 Hornets from Amari. First interception of Russian Su-24M bomber and Il-20 reconnaissance aircrafts by Polish and Spanish pilots took place on the 15th of May. On the 21st of June, Tu-154M government plane, with Sergey Shoygu, Russian Minister of Defense on board, was intercepted over the Baltic Sea by the Polish F-16C. Russian transport plane was escorted by a Su-27P fighter plane.
Previously, since 2005, Polish Air Force used the MiG-29 fighter planes. Initially, there were 8 planes in each 3-month rotation. Currently, BAP missions are extended to 4 months and there is no limit on the contingent`s planes. Changes were caused by increased activity of Russian Aerospace Forces over the Baltic Sea.