Ämari, Estonia, 4 May 2017
The German air force has handed over responsibility for Baltic Air Policing to the relief contingent during a formal ceremony held at Ämari. As of May 4, the airspace at NATO’s eastern periphery will be monitored by the Spanish air force. Air Marshal Joachim Wundrak, commander of Air Operations Command, and a large number of international guests were present for the ceremony.

(© Luftwaffe/Ulrich Metternich)
NATO’s representative at the ceremony was Air Commodore Burkhard Kollmann, deputy commander of Combined Air Operations Centre UEDEM, while Ambassador Teresa Orjales Vidal represented the Kingdom of Spain and Commander of the Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien represented the Estonian air force.
(© Luftwaffe/Peter Emshoff)
After the Estonian military band had played the national anthems of the three participating countries, Hannes Hanso, chair of the Estonian defence committee, gave a speech in which he thanked NATO for its security guarantees protecting Baltic airspace. There followed speeches by the representatives of the three nations and NATO.
(© Luftwaffe/Christian Timmig)

Medals for German personnel

A highlight of the ceremony was the awarding of the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission Medal. The medal was presented to a total of 22 members of the seventh and last German contingent to take part here in 2017.

(© Luftwaffe/Toni Dahmen)

Two terms back to back

There was a new element to Germany’s Baltic Air Policing contribution this time: contingents from the German air force covered two terms back to back, with 74 Tactical Air Wing from Neuburg an der Donau handing over responsibility to 71 Tactical Air Wing Richthofen from Wittmund in January. In total, about 1,000 troops from 45 different units have been deployed to Ämari Air Base since last September.  Though most of the troops and civilian staff came from the two tactical air wings, the commitment was nonetheless a forces-wide exercise under realistic operational conditions.

(© Luftwaffe/Christian Timmig)

Constantly in the public eye

There have been around 300 aircraft manoeuvres in the course of the last eight months, including 28 alert scrambles. These are actual or practice security flights undertaken by the quick reaction alert element – two fighter jets which are kept on standby 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The German troops and their mission in the Baltic often found themselves the focus of public attention. The Georgian Defence Minister, the Estonian Prime Minister, a camera team from German documentary-makers Galileo and many groups of civilian and military visitors were among those who came seeking more information about the deployment.

(© Luftwaffe/Christian Timmig)
The airmen and -women will remember one visit in particular, however: that of Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s Federal Minister of Defence. They had the opportunity to put their questions to the Minister directly in a relaxed atmosphere. Another highlight was the celebration of 99 years of Estonian independence, a public holiday that saw Dutch and German aircraft conduct a joint flyover and a German colours detail take part in the local parade and march alongside other nations across Freedom Square in Tallinn.
(© Luftwaffe/Philipp Kloß)
This is a translation of an article by

Peter Emshoff / Bastian Schlör published on www.luftwaffe.de,

updated to fit this webpage.

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