On 27 and 28 May 2014 seven NATO nations and two Partnership for Peace (PfP) member nations trained in the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania during the 18th Baltic Region Training Event (BRTE 18).
The large training audience during this 18th sequel of BRTE became possible because NATO quadrupled its Baltic Air Policing (BAP) oepration in May. The Polish are the BAP lead nation at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania. They are supported by the British (also at Siauliai), the Danish at Ämari, Estonia, and the French at Malbork, Poland.
The routine training event is focused on multinational cooperation of fighter and support aircraft, air-land-integration and exercising emergency procedures in the Baltic Region.
At Ādaži Training Area near Rīga, Latvia, two teams of Forward Air Controllers (FACs) from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland worked with helicopters and fighters from NATO nations and PfP member Sweden. FACs from the U.S. 173rd Infantry Brigade, who are currently deployed in the area, and joined the Baltic FACs for the BRTE training at short notice.
In total some 20 FACs were trained and 35 and 49 control runs, respectively, were conducted on the two days in various combinations of ground controllers and air assets. The diversity of NATO and Partner aircraft during BRTE 18 as well as three challenging scenarios offered the FACs opportunities to demonstrate and certify their skills in coordinating airborne support for solving simulated combat situations.
“Overall the BRTE 18 CAS portion at Ādaži Training Area was successful,” says Captain Armands Rutkis, the Latvian officer who oversaw the FAC training, “we met all our major objectives and had diverse control runs for the FACs.”
In the air, five fighter aircraft – one MiG-29, two Typhoons and two Rafales – from NATO nations Poland, the United Kingdom, France, and eight jets – two F-18s and six JAS-39s – from PfP members Finland and Sweden conducted mixed air-to-air manoeuvres over all three Baltic States, while two Danish F-16 jets flew training missions in Estonian airspace under air command and control from Allied control centres on the ground at Karmelava, Lithuania, and Ämari, Estonia.The Finish F-18s landed at Siauliai and a Swedish JAS-39 went through Search and Rescue procedures after a simulated emergency and bail-out maneouvre.
“I am very happy with the outcome of this BRTE,” says the BRTE 18 project officer at NATO’s Air Headquarters in Ramstein, Major Dimitrios Koukaras, Hellenic Air Force, “the combination of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians as well as the U.S. soldiers on the ground working with their counterparts in the air from Denmark, France, Poland, and the United Kingdom as well as Finland and Sweden allowed us to clearly achieve our goals. This is true for the CAS scenarios at Ādaži, the air-to-air training and the practicing of emergency procedures near Ventspils. NATO and Partner nations again demonstrated their excellent air capabilities and their ability to cooperate in challenging scenarios.”