Providing Assurance and Vision: A contingent of F-15s and airmen from RAF Lakenheath, Britain, has returned home from four months protecting the airspace of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania under NATO’s Baltic air policing mission. “Our tour was very successful,” Maj. Gen. Mark Schissler, US Air Forces in Europe’s director of plans, programs, and analyses, told the Daily Report during an interview at USAFE headquarters at Ramstein AB, Germany. Schissler said the Baltic states, with limited defense resources, often feel “threatened by both the proximity and the size of the Russian force.” A NATO force “capable of providing defensive security” is both reassuring to them and provides stability to NATO’s relationship with Russia, he said. The NATO rotations serve the added benefit of allowing the Baltic partners “to see how the mission’s done,” since they may one day aspire to conduct it themselves, said Schissler. When it comes to “your own national sovereignty, you’d like to do it yourself,” he said. The Lakenheath pilots flew 66 sorties, intercepting three airspace incursions, during their deployment to the Lithuanian air base in Siauliai. German air force F-4s assumed the rotational mission from them on Jan. 5. (See also Lithuania release by SSgt. Stephen Linch)
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.