Spain plans to start a new international mission with NATO in 2021. Will be on Romania From February 1 to March 30, a contingent of the Air Force with six Eurofighter planes and 130 personnel will travel to whose Mihail Kogalniceanu air base – near the city of Constanza – according to military sources.
Specifically, this air detachment belongs to Wing 11 of the Air Force, based in Morón de la Frontera (Seville). A Spanish military team has already visited the Romanian base to inspect the facilities that have been modernized in the last three years. “Only a few technical details of the base are missing so that the deployment can be made one hundred percent a reality. In order to solve these impediments, it is hoped to have the support of NATO or Romania ”, the same sources explain.
The geography of the mission -Romania and the environment of the Black Sea– It is new for the Air Force, although the task is known: to monitor the airspace of an allied country that suffers, as in the case of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic Sea, incursions by Russian Air Force planes.
This is the so-called NATO Air Police, a concept initially developed by the Alliance in 2004 to defend the airspace of the Baltic countries that joined the Atlantic Alliance and adopted in 2008 in Iceland, a country that also has no air force.
Following the war in Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian side (2014), this air defense and deterrence mechanism was developed in Romania and BulgariaCountries that have an ancient air force made up of MiG-21 aircraft from the Soviet era, although modernized by Israel, second-hand F-16s bought from Portugal or Soviet MiG-29s. The area of the Black Sea has experienced an escalation of tension over the last seven years, with a greater maritime presence of the NATO countries, naval exercises in Russia, with the Sevastopol base as a reference.
And what do missions specifically consist of? “Basically going to the identification of suspicious aircraft, which do not have a flight plan or do not respond to international identification mechanisms and that may invade or actually invade the airspace of the country in question,” explains a military source participating in these missions.
These operations on the southeast flank of NATO are monitored from the Torrejón de Ardoz Combined Air Operations Center (Madrid) and they are supervised by the NATO Air Component Headquarters (Rammstein, Germany). A perfectly greased decision-making “machine” before giving the takeoff order to the pilots who are on duty at the Romanian base, in this new Spanish case.
In a matter of 7-10 minutes, the fighters go out to meet the unknown aircraft once they receive the alert signal (“Quick Reaction Alert”).
Roughly NATO planes meet 300 Russian planes each year in the Baltic, Atlantic, Mediterranean or Black Sea, according to a NATO spokesman. Figures similar to those of 2018 and 2019.
This air police mission with NATO will not be the only one carried out by Spain in 2021. As confirmed by the same Spanish military sources, from May 1 to August 31, another six Eurofighter fighters and 130 personnel, from Ala 14 de Albacete, will deploy at the base of Šiauliai (Lithuania).
It will be the seventh consecutive year in which Spanish fighter jets go to the Baltic with NATO: Estonia (2015, 2017) and Lithuania (2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020).