U.S. Forces begin air policing mission in Baltics

SIAULIAI, Lithuania — An F-15 deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath lands here in preparation for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe to assume the NATO Baltic air policing mission. The 493d Fighter Squadron deployed four F-15s. (Department of Defense photo by Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. J. LaVoie)

SIAULIAI, Lithuania — The 493d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron deployed recently four F-15s and 130 Airmen to begin a NATO air policing mission to provide air defense for the democratic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The U.S. is one of 13 NATO nations assisting in Baltic air policing since its inception in March 2004.

"The United States is committed to the air sovereignty of its NATO allies and to ensuring the regional peace and stability for these countries," said Lt. Col. Michael King, 493d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. "The 493d EFS is ready to do our part in demonstrating U.S. Air Forces in Europe's continued resolve to provide air defense for the Baltic region."

The 493d EFS took over the mission Oct. 1, 2008 from the German Air Force and will provide round-the-clock, quick reaction alert air defense ensuring the air sovereignty of the Baltic states.

This is the second time the U.S. has provided support for this mission. A ceremony took place Sept. 30 to mark the official start of the U.S. assuming responsibility for the air policing mission.

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