US strengthens Baltic air policing mission from Lithuania

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-30 00:33:31|Editor: yan
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VILNIUS, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Air force has deployed 7 fighter jets in Lithuania on Tuesday amid security tensions in the region before the upcoming military drill Zapad 2017.

Seven fighter jets F-15C Eagle have landed in Siauliai air base, Northern Lithuania, to take over the leadership of NATO Baltic air policing mission from Polish air force rotation.

According to Lithuanian defense ministry, personnel of around 140 will conduct the air policing mission. It's the fifth U.S. rotation to protect the Baltic skies in the Eastern Europe, which, according to Lithuanian defense ministry, "demonstrates a long-standing commitment to this NATO mission".

According to local media, by deploying 7 U.S. fighter jets the U.S. strengthens air policing mission in the Baltics in the eve of military drill Zapad 2017, a planned joint strategic military exercise of the armed forces of Russia and Belarus scheduled for Sept. 14-20.

In recent two years, usually four allied fighter jets would conduct air policing missions from Lithuania, reported the Lithuanian news agency BNS.

NATO Baltic air policing missions have been carried out since 2004 with NATO allies taking turns deploying their interceptors and staff in the Baltic States in a four-month rotation.

In July, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said dialogue between NATO and Russia can be difficult, but it is essential amid raised tensions and it is particularly important to keep channels of communication open.

He called on the two sides to exchange advance briefings on upcoming exercises, including Russia's upcoming Zapad 2017 exercise and NATO's Exercise Trident Javelin 2017, to increase transparency and reduce risk.

"Allies and Russia may hold different views but we are committed to continuing our dialogue as part of our commitment to preserving peace and security," said the NATO chief.