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Hungarian Gripen Fighters Start NATO Air Policing Mission Above Baltic States

By Tamás Székely // 2015.09.07.

Two Hungarian fighters carried out a control task in Lithuanian airspace last Thursday, the Defense Ministry said. After the quick reaction alert (QRA) evaluation flight, the Hungarian fighters flew over Vilnius as well. The pair of Gripen aircraft accomplished the mission as part of a training flight at an altitude of 150 meters, at a speed of around 500 km/h. During the flyover, the airmen of the Hungarian Defence Forces stationed at Siauliai Air Base were continuously performing their QRA duties.

The Hungarian Gripens have been on standby since the handover-takeover ceremony that took place on Monday, August 31. As it is known, Hungary and Germany are guarding the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for four months in the NATO Baltic Air Policing (BAP) Mission. The Hungarian airmen were performing their training tasks to be ready to take part in what is the most difficult and most challenging mission of the Hungarian Air Force in the last 70 years.  During the next four months, the Hungarian detachment may receive real-life and training alerts, which are called Tango scramble and Alpha scramble respectively. In the recent period, the aircraft of participating NATO member states were regularly scrambled over the Baltic countries due to various violations of airspace.

In the presence of Minister of Defence Csaba Hende, the Hungarian contingent took over the lead role from the Norwegian and the Italian air forces at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania on 31 August. Besides the four Hungarian Gripen fighters, four Eurofighters of the German Air Force stationed at a base in Estonia are performing air policing duties in the airspace of the three countries. According to NATO’s plans, after the completion of the current tasks, Hungary will guard the airspace of the three countries again in May–August 2019. During the Baltic Air Policing Mission, the Gripens of the Hungarian Defence Forces are continuously protecting the airspace over Hungary and Slovenia too.

The first half of this year has been a rather difficult period for Hungary’s air force. In May, a Hungarian Gripen overran the runway at Caslav military airbase in the Czech Republic, while in June a highly experienced pilot of a Gripen fighter carried out an emergency landing before ejecting at the Kecskemét airbase. Two weeks later a Soviet-made Yak-52 training aircraft caught fire and crash landed. The pilots made an emergency landing and managed to leave the aircraft but one of them suffered severe burns.

via and MTI photo: Szilárd Koszticsák – MTI