Nato’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission enters its 20th year on 30 March 2024, just as eight Spanish F-18 fighters, and 150 air force personnel from Spain’s ‘Vilkas’ tactical air detachment rotate to Estonia to take up responsibility for security of the airspace in the region. 

The total number of Spanish Air Force personnel will also include aviators from the Armament and Experimentation Logistics Center to help with electronic warfare, and an additional A400 and its crew, bringing the headcount to almost 190 troops. 

The BAP is purely is a purely defensive deployment, according to the Nato, intended to offer protection to Nato members as well as partner nations and future potential members. 

Lacking the necessary airforce assets to participate in BAP, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, have shared a single standard of security across European Nato airspace via the four-month rotation of outside airforces stationed at airbases in Šiauliai, Lithuania and Ämari, Estonia. 

The three Baltic Nato Ally nations contribute to the mission through air command and control infrastructure and personnel and other host nation support. Expansion of the mission footprint include the Ämari Air Base began after the 2014 Russian invasion Crimea. 

Considering the geographical circumstances of Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave separated from mainland Russia, Russian flight activity in the region is anticipated, but Russian Federation Aircraft have been diverted from Nato airspace over these countries on repeated occasions during the 20 years of BAP.

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Nato aircraft are employed to visually confirm and divert infringements from Russian aircraft that often fly near Nato airspace without transponders, and without either communicating with Nato air traffic control or filing a flight plan, according to Nato

After the completion of a Royal Air Force (RAF) rotation of the BAP in Estonia in August 2023, the UK Ministry of Defence stated that within since March 2023 RAF Typhoon jets had intercepted 50 Russian aircraft, with more than 300 intercepts occurring in 2023.