Four F-16 Fighting Falcons and 120 personnel from the Royal Netherlands Air Force arrived at Siauliai AB, Lithuania, on Monday to lead NATO’s Baltic Air Policing operations aimed at securing member nation’s airspace. They will relieve a group of French air force Dassault Mirage 2000s, and will be joined in their mission by four German air force Eurofighter Typhoons based at Amari AB, Estonia, according to IHS Jane’s. NATO has conducted the the patrols since 2004, and the RNAF has participated twice before. The Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act increased US military funding for this NATO mission under the European Defense Initiative. (See also: Northern Exposure in the Feb. 2017 issue of Air Force Magazine.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.