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US F-16s in Poland strengthening NATO air policing mission

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U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed – from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany – in Łask, Poland on January 4 to work with the Polish Baltic Air Policing F-16s in Siauliai, Lithuania and enhanced Air Policing Belgian F-16s in Amari, Estonia.

The Belgian, Polish and U.S. fighters will practice advanced airborne manoeuvres and work closely with Combined Air Operations Centre Uedem (CAOCUE) 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 U.S. 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,” (Nostrant, 2021) he added.

The U.S. 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.

Since 2014, the NATO Alliance has implemented Assurance Measures with the aim to assure the Allies along the eastern flank. One tool in this set of measures is the concept of enhanced Air Policing, which demonstrates NATO’s solidarity, collective resolve, and its ability to adapt and scale its defensive missions and deterrence posture in response to an evolving security situation. Participating member nations – most recently including Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia – deploy aircraft with offensive and defensive capabilities to ensure no suspicious or unannounced flights enter NATO airspace. Because of its geographic isolation, the U.S. utilizes its own air policing procedures as implemented and carried out by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, but participating U.S. fighter pilots complete air policing qualifications before joining official NATO activities overseas.

NATO air policing efforts may become increasingly crucial as tensions between Ukraine and Russia continue to scale up. Ukrainian defence officials have previously stated their growing concern of the possibility of invasion. In turn, NATO members closest to the Russian threat are seeking adjustments to the alliance’s defence posture to show Russian President Vladimir Putin that America will defend NATO’s eastern flank in the event of hostilities in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III promised that Ukraine will get the assistance it needs to defend itself. A last-minute visit to Washington by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on 19 November detailed an urgent need for air defence capabilities. An American air defence team visited Ukraine to assess the country’s needs. But still, there has been no new announcement of defence assistance to Ukraine.

Written by Lorenzo Giordano


Allied Air Command Public Affairs Office, (2021), “U.S. F-16s strengthen air policing mission with long-planned Poland deployment”, NATO, [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 7 January 2021].

Nostrant R., (2021), “US F-16s head to Poland to strengthen NATO air policing mission”, Military Times, [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 7 January 2021].