Saturday, April 01, 2006

Turks in Baltics

Four F16 fighters of the Turkish Air Force have now arrived in Siauliai in Lithuania.

They are there to take over responsibility for air policing over the three Baltic countries.

In that role they are replacing four MiG-29's from the Polish Air Force that have been conducting this NATO mission for the past six months.

It's a different Europe indeed.

Siauliai was once a major Soviet airbase. It was part of the extensive system as such throughout the then Baltic Soviet republics.

But now it's a base used by NATO for patrolling and protecting the skies of the area.

It's not really air defence. No one sees any threat of that sort. But in the post-September 11 environment there is an increased need for air policing missions. And since the three Baltic nations don't have any aircrafts that can conduct even the most rudimentary missions of this sort, NATO has stepped in with units from different air forces rotating to the base in northern Lithuania.

It's an example of the new security arrangements in Europe.

For the first time it is planes from the Turkish Air Force coming to the area. It's not their natural environment.

And it's worth noting that they are also bringing the first female fighter pilot to the mission and to the area.

It's modern Turkey in the new Europe.