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Again, the Key to the Baltic Airspace is in Our Hands

Szöveg: Gábor Kálmánfi |  2019. május 2. 12:52

Besides the airspaces of our homeland and Slovenia, as from 1st May, as a lead nation, Hungary with the Hungarian Defence Forces’ fighter aircraft ensures the protection of the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in co-operation with the aircraft of the Spanish Air Force and the Royal Air Force of Great Britain, in the next four months. The handover/takeover ceremony of the 50th Baltic Air Policing (BAP) rotation was held on Thursday, 2nd May on the Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.

Four JAS-39 Gripen aircraft, and more than one hundred soldiers relocated from Kecskemét to Lithuania to take over – after 2015 – again, the protection of the Baltic airspace from Poland. At the ceremony, Lt.-Gen. Rubén C. Garcia Servert, the Commander of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) south solemnly handed over the "key to the airspace" to Brig.-Gen. Csaba Ugrik, the Commander of the BAP-mission, and to Lt.-Col. Alberto Valero, the head of the Spanish Contingent augmenting the airspace defence.

In his address, Vytautas Umbrasas, the Vice-Minister of National Defence called this day a milestone, and noted that the protection of the Baltic airspace is a shining example of the co-operation of NATO’s allied Member States. The Vice-Minister gave a token of appreciation on the occasion of the commencement of service to Brig.-Gen. Csaba Ugrik. The Hungarian BAP-Commander said that it is great honour for the airmen serving at the HDF 59th "Szentgyörgyi Dezső" Air Base to take over service in the Baltic, particularly this year, when we can celebrate so many landmark anniversaries.


"The Hungarian contingent is excellently prepared and is fully committed to the protection of the airspace" – the Brigadier General stated. To our question, he revealed that as now the Gripen fighters perform service in the summer season, they will have more opportunities to participate in different flight training events in addition to performing standby duties. He added that more real-life alerts are foreseeable than four years ago.

H.E. Gábor Diczházy, the Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of Hungary highlighted in his speech that NATO continuously adapts to the changes in the security environment. He pointed out that our homeland is committed to the security of the Baltic airspace, and our soldiers will show their proficiency.


Lt.-Gen. Rubén C. Garcia Servert underlined that although it has been the 50th rotation, the task should not be regarded as a routine mission. As he said, it feels good to look back on the successes of recent years, and he is confident that the "key to the airspace" will be safe in the Hungarian and Spanish hands.

The service of the HDF Gripens will be augmented by the fighters of the British Royal Airforce if necessary, besides the Spanish Air Force aircraft.

During the 2015 Baltic Air Policing mission our fighter pilots spent over 430 hours in the air – and from this they had to fly out owing to Alfa scramble for 25 times. Interestingly enough, the Lithuanian Air Force celebrates the centenary of its establishment besides handover ceremony of the fiftieth rotation.


Photos of the author