Eagles safeguard Baltic sovereignty

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle configured as a quick reaction aircraft remains ready to execute Baltic Air Policing operations at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The Eagle is a combat proven, tactical fighter that can penetrate rival defenses and outperform and outfight any current opposing aircraft, giving NATO the strategic access critical to meet Article 5 commitments and to respond to threats against its allies and partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle configured as a quick reaction aircraft remains ready to execute Baltic Air Policing operations at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The Eagle is a combat proven, tactical fighter that can penetrate rival defenses and outperform and outfight any current opposing aircraft, giving NATO the strategic access critical to meet Article 5 commitments and to respond to threats against its allies and partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle aircrew member from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron responds to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017.The 493rd EFS pilots routinely track, intercept and interrogate aircraft operating in Baltic airspace who are non-responsive to local air-traffic controlled communication or operating without an official flight plan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle aircrew member from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron responds to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017.The 493rd EFS pilots routinely track, intercept and interrogate aircraft operating in Baltic airspace who are non-responsive to local air-traffic controlled communication or operating without an official flight plan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle aircrew members from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron responds to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The 493rd EFS pilots routinely track, intercept and interrogate aircraft operating in Baltic airspace who are non-responsive to local air-traffic controlled communication or operating without an official flight plan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle aircrew members from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron responds to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The 493rd EFS pilots routinely track, intercept and interrogate aircraft operating in Baltic airspace who are non-responsive to local air-traffic controlled communication or operating without an official flight plan. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Alert F-15Cs from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The F-15C is uniquely suited for the Baltic Air Policing mission with its capability to detect, acquire, track and intercept opposing aircraft while operating in friendly or rival-controlled airspace at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

Alert F-15Cs from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The F-15C is uniquely suited for the Baltic Air Policing mission with its capability to detect, acquire, track and intercept opposing aircraft while operating in friendly or rival-controlled airspace at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

An alert ready F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The F-15C is uniquely suited for the Baltic Air Policing mission with its capability to detect, acquire, track and intercept opposing aircraft while operating in friendly or rival-controlled airspace at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

An alert ready F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4, 2017. The F-15C is uniquely suited for the Baltic Air Policing mission with its capability to detect, acquire, track and intercept opposing aircraft while operating in friendly or rival-controlled airspace at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

An alert ready F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4. The Eagle is a combat proven, tactical fighter that can penetrate rival defenses and outperform and outfight any current opposing aircraft, giving NATO the strategic access critical to meet Article 5 commitments and to respond to threats against its allies and partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

An alert ready F-15C Eagle from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron respond to an alert scramble notification at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Sept. 4. The Eagle is a combat proven, tactical fighter that can penetrate rival defenses and outperform and outfight any current opposing aircraft, giving NATO the strategic access critical to meet Article 5 commitments and to respond to threats against its allies and partners. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)

ŠIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania -- The Eagle is a combat proven, tactical fighter designed to permit the U.S. Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield. It can penetrate rival defenses and outperform and outfight any current opposing aircraft, giving NATO the strategic access critical to meet Article 5 commitments and to respond to threats against its Allies and partners.

"Big picture, we're ensuring our strategic partnership with our Baltic allies by protecting the sovereign skies above the Baltic states," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clint Guenther, 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron detachment commander. "Our contingent is on alert twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to ensure we are fulfilling that commitment."

What makes the F-15C uniquely suited for the Baltic Air Policing mission is its capability to detect, acquire, track and intercept opposing aircraft while operating in friendly or rival-controlled air space. The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots can detect and track aircraft and small high-speed targets at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level.

"When the Combined Air Operations Center, monitoring the Baltic skies in Germany identifies an aircraft that is not squawking [talking to regional air traffic control] or on a registered flight plan, they notify the wing operations center here in Siauliai, who alerts us to respond," Guenther said. "From that moment, we are airborne within fifteen minutes of that notification to interrogate that aircraft.”

F-15C Eagles can be configured with air-to-air weaponry such as the AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missile on its lower fuselage corners and the AIM-9L/M Sidewinder or AIM-120 missiles on two pylons under the wings, along with an internal 20mm Gatling gun in the right wing root, allowing it to provide all-weather, day or night air superiority and air-to-ground precision capability

Preserving the integrity of allied airspace in peacetime by air policing remains a vital task and an important demonstration of the collective political will and resolve of all NATO nations; operations such as this are critical to the defense of NATO allies, their national interests and are a solid financial investment in Europe's collective security.

NATO stands with its Baltic allies in maintaining a Europe that is safe, secure and prosperous. To date, seventeen NATO countries have shared the air policing mission in the Baltic region since operations began in April 2004.