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Seven fighters land in Lithuania as US boosts air policing mission ahead of Zapad drills
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    Topics - Defence Matters ENG - News

    Seven fighters land in Lithuania as US boosts air policing mission ahead of Zapad drills


    VILNIUS, Aug 29, BNS - The United States has boosted the Baltic air policing mission as Russian and Belarus prepare to hold their joint large-scale military exercise Zapad (West) next month.

    Seven US F-15C Eagle fighter-jets landed in the Lithuanian Air Force' Siauliai airbase on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry confirmed to BNS.

    Four NATO fighters would normally carry out the mission in Lithuania in the past two years.

    Around 140 troops from a US base in Britain will take over the mission from Polish troops who have guarded the Baltic airspace for the past four months.

    The US Air Force will lead the Baltic air-policing mission for the fifth time.

    The mission was strengthened two weeks before the start of the Zapad exercise. Minsk says that the exercise will involve 12,700 troops, but Lithuanian officials believe that the figure was artificially reduced by splitting the drills into separate parts and that the actual number may reach 100,000 troops.

    Lithuania's military intelligence officials say that the Zapad scenario will likely include a simulated armed conflict with NATO and warn about possible incidents and provocations in the border area during the war games.

    Russia and Belarus say that Zapad 2017, scheduled for Sept. 14-20, will be a defensive exercise.

    The Lithuanian Defense Ministry's press release about the arrival of the US fighters gives no mention of the Zapad exercise, saying only that the US thus "demonstrates NATO's unbreakable commitment to ensuring the security of the Baltic countries".

    An official changeover ceremony at the Siauliai airbase will take place on Wednesday.

    By Vaidotas Beniusis

    Vilnius newsroom,, +370 5 205 8514


    • Published: 29.08.2017 17:33
    • LETA, BNS
    • © The given news may not be republished in any way or amount, or otherwise used by the mass media or Internet websites, without written permission of LETA. If this provision is not observed, the matter will be taken to court pursuant to the laws and regulations of the Republic of Latvia.