Italy and Greece will begin flying NATO air patrols over Montenegro on June 5. Montenegro joined the alliance in June last year but since it lacks its own fighters, it has requested allies to help secure its airspace.
The mission over Montenegro is the latest air policing tasking staged by NATO to protect the skies of member nations that do not have their own fighter force.
Fighters from the Italian and Greek air forces will patrol Montenegrin airspace as required flying from bases in their home countries.
Under NATO regulations, alliance air forces must have at least two fighters on 24/7 readiness. Alternatively, allies with no fighter component can seek multinational solutions to guard their airspace. France, Portugal and Spain are currently part of the air policing mission over the Baltic States. Meanwhile, Hungary and Italy routinely help protect Slovenian airspace, while Greece and Italy support air patrols over Albania.
NATO air policing jets take to the skies in response to military or civilian aircraft in distress, or that do not follow international flight regulations and approach the airspace of NATO allies. Often, these aircraft fail to properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or file flight plans.
BAP mission latest
At the beginning of May, Portugal assumed responsibility as the lead nation for the 47th rotation of the Baltic Air Policing (BAP) mission safeguarding the airspace over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. France and Spain are augmenting the mission within the framework of enhanced Air Policing (eAP).
The Força Aérea Portuguesa (Portuguese Air Force) deployed four F-16AMs from Base Aérea No 5 Monte Real to Šiauliai, Lithuania, for the fourth time. The 90-strong detachment of pilots, ground crews and support personnel took over the mission from Denmark on May 2.
The Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) detachment at Ämari air base, Estonia, consists of four Mirage 2000-5Fs from Escadron de Chasse 1/2 ‘Cigognes’ and around 100 personnel from their home base at Luxeuil. This is the seventh time French fighters have conducted the BAP assignment.
Finally, an Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force) Eurofighter detachment of six jets and approximately 130 personnel from Ala 11 at Morón has also deployed at Šiauliai. Spain led the BAP mission in 2006 and 2016 and augmented it out of Ämari in 2015 and again last year, making this the fifth tour to the Baltics.
Montenegro’s modest air arm
The Vazduhoplovstvo Vojske Crne Gore (VVCG, Army of Montenegro Aviation) received the first of three Bell 412EPs on April 13 this year. The second-hand 412EP (c/n 36307, ex N356TD) was built in 2002 and had been used by the New York Police Department as a surveillance helicopter from July 2003 as N2411X and, later, as N23FH. It was sold back to Bell around 2015 and on April 7 this year was transferred from Fort Worth, Texas to Václav Havel Airport, Prague in a Boeing 747. Five days later it was flown to Golubovci air base, Montenegro where it was met in the air by three VVCG Gazelles, previously the only aircraft in service with the air arm. Two new-build Bell 412EPI helicopters will arrive before the end of the year. All three will be used for pilot training.