Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania–all former members of the Cold War-era Soviet Union–joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in March of 2004. In doing so, the task of maintaining air sovereignty in the skies over the Baltic Sea fell became NATO‘s full-time responsibility.
That Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) mission consists of member nations providing aircraft and personnel for the task. Currently, the mission is executed by different nations in four-month intervals, with the jets and personnel staging out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania.
Four to six aircraft and between fifty and one hundred maintainers and other support personnel deploy at a time. So far, 14 different nations have contributed to the QRA effort.
NATO’s Higher Headquarters has the responsibility to provide training, done in regional events around the Baltic, to make sure everyone is singing from the same sheet of music.
Regardless of the pilots’ nationalities, they all need to use the same tactics, techniques, and procedures to ensure continuity and compliance with the NATO objectives. In September of 2014, the QRA fell to a half-dozen Vipers from the Força Aérea Portuguesa (FAP). During a Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE), the Portuguese had the opportunity to fly basic fighter maneuvers with a MiG-29 from the Siły Powietrzne–the Polish Air Force.
(Featured Photo courtesy of Defense Industry Daily)