An F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron takes off from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, March 6, 2014. The 48th Fighter Wing sent an additional six aircraft and more than 50 personnel to support NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania, at the request of U.S. allies in the Baltics. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Emerson Nunez/Released)
March 7, 2014 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- The 48th Fighter Wing has sent additional aircraft and personnel to support NATO's air policing mission in Lithuania, at the request of U.S. allies in the Baltics.
Six F-15C Eagles departed RAF Lakenheath and two KC-135 Stratotankers carrying more than 60 Airmen departed RAF Mildenhall March 6.
Nearly 150 Airmen and four F-15C Eagles from the 48th FW have been supporting the Baltic Air Policing mission out of Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, since January as the 48th Air Expeditionary Group.
"This is the advantage of being forward-based," said Col. Mark Ciero, 48th Fighter Wing vice commander. "If called upon, we can quickly respond to support our allies and partners."
Air policing is part of NATO's "Smart Defense" model that incorporates allied nations conducting operations through shared capabilities and coordinated efforts to effectively accomplish missions. NATO countries rotate to provide Airmen and aircraft for the BAP mission, which is slated to continue through 2018.
In the last decade, 14 NATO nations have participated in this mission. This deployment marks the fourth rotation for U.S. forces.