The Hungarian Air Force has officially handed over the responsibility of Nato’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission to the Polish and French air forces.

This was announced by the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence (MND).

After the takeover, Poland and France will now carry out the policing mission to safeguard the Lithuanian airspace.

This transition was marked by a changeover ceremony held at Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai on 1 December, in presence of Lithuanian Vice Defence Minister Vilius Semeška.

The event was also attended by other senior officials and representatives from the defence ministries of Lithuania, Poland and Hungary and Allied Air Command.

Semeška said: “The importance of Nati’s air defence today cannot be overstated.

“Countries agreed to step up deterrence and defence, including in the air domain, back in Madrid.

“We acknowledge that air defence capabilities should have a stronger role in ensuring security in the Baltic region.”

The newly deployed aircraft now includes a total of four Polish F-16 fighter jets along with France’s four Rafale multi-role combat aircraft.

The Lithuanian MND also claimed that this is the first time French Rafale jets have been deployed in Lithuania. 

Previously, a Hungarian detachment of around 150 personnel, including pilots, medical personnel, technicians, support team, communications personnel and other specialists, was deployed in Lithuania for this air policing task in the Baltics States.

The deployed air assets from the outgoing Hungarian Air Force included four JAS-39 Gripen fighter jets.

Throughout their deployment, the Hungarian forces performed a series of operations and participated in several community engagement activities with the Šiauliai residents.

The Hungarian Air Force carried out its first BAP mission in Lithuania in 2015.