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Belgian F-16s on guard over the Baltic countries

visit MOD Lithunia(BRUSSELS2 in Vilnius) The Belgian soldiers have taken the watch position over the Baltic countries since September 5, taking over from the French of the 118 of Mont-de-Marsan. This until January 2014, when they will be relieved by the Americans. A mission which is not purely formal. Indeed, according to several sources, the presence of Russian military planes violating the skies of the Baltic countries is not rare.

Regular alerts...

« There is not one alert per day. But at least one a week » an officer recently confided to me. According to the report drawn up by the French, there were 27 takeoffs for alert over 4 months of presence. Even if no proof exists, the voluntary aspect of these alerts is proven. " HAS each shift, the Russians test the new arrivals. Kind of like a welcome speech ».

A bit of provocation too…

And diaries are carefully scrutinized. During the Lithuanian celebration of the King's coronation, on July 6, the French Mirages, which were to provide the highlight of the parade with a demonstration flight, had to cancel their performance. A Russian plane had burst into the air zone…” No coincidence » according to a Lithuanian officer I contacted.

In the air in 15 minutes

The NATO contract provides for takeoff within 15 minutes of alert. But often it's less. During an alert exercise, carried out in the presence of the Belgian Minister of Defense, Pieter de Crem, they took to the air in record time: seven minutes after launching the alert according to my agency college Belga who attended the exercise.

Read also : Above the Baltic countries, NATO planes keep watch

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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