U.S. warplanes to patrol Baltic airspace from October
The U.S. Air Force will patrol the airspace over the Baltic states from October, the Latvian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.
A group of U.S. F-16 fighter jets will replace the current German planes on a rotation basis.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia reached an agreement with NATO on the lease of fighters to patrol their airspace in 2004. Patrols have since been conducted by Belgian, Spanish, Norwegian, German and Danish aircraft.
The patrols cost the Latvian taxpayers $4 million a year.
The Baltic States have virtually no fighter planes. They said earlier that they would be unable to acquire their own fighter planes before 2018.
The Baltic skies are presently secured by the so-called NATO air police, which in addition to fighter planes also provide air defense systems and manpower.
[Source: Novosti, Riga, 10Sep08]
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