Four Italian Air Force F-35A fighter planes landed at Estonia’s Amari Air Base on April 30 to take over the NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission for the first time.
It is also the first deployment of Italian F-35As to Estonia. These jets will replace the German Eurofighter Typhoon fighters in rotation. The aircraft belongs to the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) from Amendola Air Base, in southeastern Italy, and their deployment to Estonia was supported by a KC-767A tanker, Estonian Air Force said in a statement.
According to the North Atlantic Council, the Air Forces of NATO member states have been guarding the airspace of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania since March 29, 2004, when the Baltic states became NATO members. At the 2012 Chicago summit, the North Atlantic Council extended the Baltic air security mission indefinitely.
As part of the “Baltic Eagle II” mission, the Italian F-35A aircraft, operating within the Task Group Falco of the Task Force Air Estonia will replace the German Air Force Eurofighters which have been deployed to Amari since late August. Although it’s the first time they operate from Estonia, the Italian Air Force F-35A jets have already supported NATO Air Policing mission in Iceland twice: the first time in 2019, the second in 2020, when the Italian Lightnings scrambled for the first time to intercept a formation of three Russian Tu-142s.