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US F-16 fighters arrive in Poland to boost air policing on NATO’s eastern flank

US F-16 in Poland
Photo: US Air Force

US Air Force F-16 fighters landed in Łask, Poland, on January 4 to boost NATO air policing capabilities in Lithuania and Estonia.

More specifically, the US fighters will support Polish F-16 aircraft deployed for air policing missions in Siauliai, Lithuania, and Belgian F-16s deployed to Amari, Estonia.

The Belgian, Polish and US fighters will practice advanced airborne maneuvers and work closely with Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem (CAOCUE) in Germany to enhance command and control procedures. This detachment in Eastern Europe is designed to improve interoperability among the allies and rehearse the rapid deployment of aircraft to alternate bases.

“The supplemental US fighters will provide improved capabilities in the region and demonstrate a seamless integration into the long standing Baltic and enhanced Air Policing missions,” said Brigadier General Joel Carey, Allied Air Command Deputy Chief of Staff Operations. “These deployments demonstrate the Alliance’s ability to rapidly and effectively deploy assets to vital regions to assure partners and safeguard Allied airspace,” he added.

The US fighters will complete routine air policing qualification prior to participating in the air policing activities. CAOCUE oversees all air policing missions in the Baltic region and directs any scrambles against unknown aircraft.

Poland took over the policing mission in Lithuania from Portugal on December 1, 2021, while Belgians took over the mission in Estonia from Italy on the same day.

The NATO alliance has been implementing assurance measures with the goal of assuring the allies along the eastern flank since 2014.