Hornet crews practice scramble in Lithuania

News Article / September 5, 2014

By Captain Christopher Daniel

CF-188 Hornet aircrew and ground crew from the Canadian Air Task Force (ATF) Lithuania practiced scramble procedures at Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania, on September 3, 2014, following the handover of the Baltic Air Policing mission to the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Portuguese Air Force by the Royal Air Force and the Polish Air Force.

“Scrambling means getting our fighter jets quickly airborne to react to an immediate threat, usually to intercept hostile or unlawful aircraft,” said Lieutenant-Colonel David Pletz, the commander of ATF Lithuania.

“Today’s mission is a routine high-readiness activity that we conduct to ensure that we can rapidly respond to critical air incidents.”

The practice scramble validated the robust teamwork between the Hornet pilots and maintainers.

“They were very quick when the bell rang,” said Chief Warrant Officer Alain Roy, ATF chief warrant officer and an armament technician by trade. “I’m impressed by the sense of urgency that the maintainers have demonstrated; they were successful in rapidly readying the jets to take-off immediately.”

NATO’s Baltic Air Policing is an important confidence building measure that demonstrates alliance solidarity. It has been, and remains, one of the cornerstones of alliance cohesion, which Canada is very proud to be part of.

“The Air Task Force’s participation in this air policing mission represents the air component of Operation Reassurance, and reinforces Canada’s continued commitment to promoting security and stability in Central and Eastern Europe and to supporting NATO collective defence,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Pletz.

“It’s a great honour for us to be part of this solidarity and to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the Baltic airspace.”

There are four CF-188 Hornet aircraft and more than 130 airmen and airwomen from 2 Wing and 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec; 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta; 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario; 14 Wing Greenwood, Nova Scotia; 17 Wing Winnipeg, Manitoba; and 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario, deployed in support of the Baltic Air Policing mission. These personnel include aircrew and personnel who provide operational support to air assets, such as force protection, intelligence, aerospace management and maintenance coordination.

“The air policing mission that we’re conducting here in the Baltic region is very similar to the 24/7 NORAD mission we execute back home, which our crews are very familiar with,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Pletz. “Our airmen and airwomen are ready and well-equipped to quickly respond to aerial threats.”

About the Air Task Force Lithuania

From the DND website

While participating in the Baltic Air Policing mission, the task force works with NATO allies and responds into any intrusions of Baltic air space. NATO announced its plans to increase the number of fighters patrolling over the Baltics as part of the mission, and accepted Canada’s offer to participate in this augmentation. Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal are providing forces as part of the mission.

While the fighters were unarmed during their training mission in Romania, they have been armed for their participation in the air policing mission. The mission is purely defensive; it is not in response to any specific threat, but rather it is a routine and a fundamental component of how NATO provides security to its members.

The task force includes:

  • approximately 135 personnel
  • four CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron, which is located at 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec
  • a command and control element, which provides tactical-level command support
  • a mission support element, which provides logistical support including lodging, food services, supply, transportation and construction, electrical and mechanical engineering
  • an operational support element, which provides operational support to air assets, including force protection, intelligence, aerospace management and maintenance coordination
  • an air movements detachment that coordinates the movement of personnel and material in and out of the deployed location

The CF-18 is Canada's frontline multi-role fighter, and its pilots are trained to perform air defence, air superiority, training, and tactical support missions. CF-188 pilots are trained to engage both aerial and ground targets.


 

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