Air components deployed on the Baltic Air-policing mission in the Lithuanian Air Force Aviation Base (Siauliai) rotated on May 1. Troops of the Royal Danish Air Force who provided security for the Baltic airspace transferred the mission to the Czech Air Contingent.
This is the first time troops of the Czech Air Force will be conducting NATO Baltic Air-policing mission.
Rotation ceremony at the LAF Aviation Base was attended by the Commander Czech Air Force, heads of missions of embassies of the Czech Republic in Lithuania and Latvia, Defence Attachés of Denmark and the Czech Republic, representatives of the Lithuanian Air Force, Aviation Base, Siauliai Municipality, and other guests.
Czech Air Contingent comprises 75 members coming from different units of the Czech Armed Forces. Majority of them originally serve in 21 Tactical Air Base in Čáslav. Air Contingent will be led by Commander Maj. Miroslav Míka. He is in charge of 211 Tactical Air Squadron of 21 Tactical Air Base of the Air Force of the Czech Republic. Czech Air Contingent will also include up to eight troops and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces of Kingdom of Sweden. They will provide assistance in maintaining JAS-39 Gripen aircrafts the Czech Air Force has acquired from Sweden.
Czech troops will guard Baltic skies with four fighter-jets JAS-39 Gripen, the first ones of the fourth generation. Air Force of the Czech Republic began employing JAS-39 aircrafts in 2005. NATO QRA Baltic Air-policing mission is the first time since WWII the aircrafts have been sent on a tactical operation abroad.
Since 2004 Baltic Air-policing mission had been conducted on a three-month rotational basis by Belgian, Danish, British, Norwegian, Dutch, German, American, and Polish air contingents, in spring 2006 the duty period was extended to four months and fulfilled by Turkey, Spain, Belgium, and France. Romanian air component was deployed on the mission for three months, Portuguese - a month and a half, Norwegian, Polish, German, and American - for three months, and the departing Danish soldiers conducted a four-month period of duty.
Photo by Jan Kouba (Czech MOD)