|Operation Baltic Air Policing II / Second Belgian Deployment|
On March 31st 2007 the Belgian Air Component Detachment successfully concluded a second tour of duty in the framework of "Operation Baltic Policing" organised on request by NATO to provide a "Quick Reaction Alert" (QRA) at Lithuania in order to guard the airspace over the three Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Belgium was the first country to volunteer for this type of missions when on April 1st 2004 the Air Component's Kleine Brogel Airbase managed on an incredible short notice of less than a week to successfully deploy to the Lithuanian airbase of Zokniai near Siauliai with four F-16AM's to insure a QRA. (aircraft in the air under 15 minutes after an alert/24h a day and 7 days a week). Belgium is also the first NATO country to deploy to the Baltic for the second time.
A Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) can consist of helping an aircraft (civilian or military) with technical problems or even to intercept and shoot down on order of the allied authorities any intruder who does not react on warnings. Scrambles are categorised as "Tango" scrambles (training scrambles) and "Alpha" Scrambles (a scramble for real when an unidentified aircraft approaches the border or when an aircraft does not respond to the ground control).
The President of Lithuania, Valdas ADAMKUS, accompanied by Lithuanian Defence Minister M. Juozas OLEKAS, and Chief of Lithuanian Defence - Maj. Gen. Valdas TUTKUS salute the Lithuanian national - and Air Force flags.
During the second 4 month lasting tour of operations the Belgian Detachment flew 99 scrambles, three of which were "real" Alpha scrambles. Fortunately of these Alpha Scrambles two were to identify ULM type of aircraft with had no radio on board while the third one was a Cessna type of private aircraft which experienced transponder and radio problems. The Belgian fighters flew a total of 270 hours defending the Baltic airspace. For the sake of the hand-over ceremony organised on 30 March 2007 two Belgian F-16AM's (FA-98 and FA-133) demonstrated a scramble from the QRA shelter area (clamshell-type) at Siauliai. The Belgian Detachment, commanded by Maj. Vl. Mark "Mioef" Meeuwissen, consisted of 60 men personnel drawn from the 2nd and 10th Wings at Florennes and Kleine Brogel respectively. At the same time Belgian specialists from the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC Glons) are training local military air controllers in view of obtaining their NATO-certificate.
The last Belgian scramble by Lockheed F-16AM FA-98 & FA-133.
Next in line to take over the "Operation Baltic Policing" is the French Armée de l'Air who participates for the first time in this NATO operation. Four Mirage 2000C fighters from Escadrille de Chasse 01.012 "Cambrésis", based at Cambrai (Northern France) will stand guard over the Baltic States for the next four months.
Armée de l'Air Dassault Mirage 2000C 107/12-YD near the clamshell-type QRA hangars at Siauliai airbase.
To accentuate the importance the Baltic States are attaching to these policing missions, the President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus personally assisted the hand-over ceremony organised on March 30th. In the presence of Lithuanian dignitaries, the Belgian and French ambassadors as well as Belgian Air Component Commander Lt. Gen. G. van Caelenberge and Chief of French Air Operations Brig. Gen. S. Tafani, the Belgian Det. Co Maj. Mark Meeuwissen handed over the "Key" of the Baltic Air Policing to his Armée de l'Air counterpart Lt. Colonel Yves Girard.
Belgian Detachment Commander Maj. Meeuwissen hands over the "Key" of the Baltic Air Policing operation to his Armée de l'Air counterpart Y. Girard.
Lithuanian President Valdas ADAMKUS in discussion with Belgian Air Component Commander Lt. Gen Gérard Van Caelenberge.
Lithuanian President Valdas ADAMKUS tries out Belgian "Tiger" F-16AM FA-94 assisted by Belgian Det.CO Maj. Meeuwissen
Since BAHA's last visit at Siauliai in July 2004 the Lithuanian Air Force has started a modernisation programme to bring their hardware closer to NATO standards and therefore are gradually withdrawing from use a number of former Russian aircraft and helicopters, the replacement of which is now starting. It is also planned that by the 2011/2012 timeframe the Baltic States will be able to provide their own air-cover with a fighter type yet to be selected and acquired.
First new Lithuanian hardware arrived on 22 December 2006 when the first of three state of the art Alenia Aeronautica C-27J Spartan tactical transport was delivered at Siauliai airbase ensuring interoperability with its NATO partners. Three/two Antonov An-26 transport aircraft will be kept in service during the transition period. The two remaining C-27J which are up to Italian Air Force standards (including air-to air refuelling capability) will be delivered in 2008 and 2009 respectively. Two Let L-410UVP Turbolet light transport aircraft delivered in March 1993 will remain operationally for the foreseeable future.
Newest Lithuanian Air Force transport aircraft, Alenia Aeronautica C-27J Spartan "06"
Let L-410UVP "01" on the apron at Siauliai lined up with the three remaining operational Antonov An-26 transports.
Mil Mi8MTV-1 "21" is maintained in excellent operational condition.
Antonov An-2 "12" is one of three such biplanes still operational at Siauliai the others being "10" and "11". More such aircraft are in storage.
At Siauliai a number of aircraft have been placed in open storage including some of the antique An-2 biplanes, three L-39C Albatross trainer/fighters and some Mil Mi-8 helicopters. Three An-2 aircraft are believed to be still operational.
Two of the three L-39C Albatross trainer/attack aircraft in open storage including "01", "03" and "08". In the back some of the Mil Mi.8 transport helicopters also in storage.
Some An-2 fuselages in open storage. Museums interested ?
Text and picturs by
Daniel Brackx (March 2007)
supplementary picture provided by Jos Schoofs
Thanks Pé for making this possible.
Last updated 09/04/07 09:13 by Daniel Brackx