The US Air Force (USAF) has taken over the responsibility of the Nato’s Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission from the Polish Air Force in a ceremony held at Šiauliai Air Base in Lithuania.

The Polish F-16 fighters have policed the Lithuanian skies since May.

Nearly 140 Airmen and seven F-15C Eagles have been deployed to Lithuania by the 48th Fighter Wing, as part of 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from the Royal Air Force Lakenheath, Suffolk, UK.

Nato Allied Air Command and US Air Forces in Europe commander airforce general Tod D Wolters said: "It is the US's fifth opportunity to rotate and serve the region, and I know that all of our maintainers, operators, mission supporters and that beautiful F-15C will do whatever it takes over the next 120 days to protect the beautiful sovereign skies above Lithuania."

"It is the US's fifth opportunity to rotate and serve the region."

The Nato air policing peacetime collective defence mission is aimed at protecting the airspace over Lithuania.

The BAP mission is being carried out as part of Nato's ‘Smart Defense’ model that incorporates allied nations by conducting operations through shared capabilities and coordinated efforts to effectively accomplish missions.

Image: The 493rd EFS is slated to lead the Baltic air policing rotation until the end of the year. Photo: courtesy of the USAF by technical sergeant Matthew Plew.