Meet some of the French fighter jet pilots responsible for patrolling the skies above Estonia as part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission.
In May 2020, the French Air Force took the lead of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission in Estonia, contributing four Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. The mission lasts for four months and sees the French deployed to Ämari Air Base in Estonia, supported by Spanish and UK pilots situated in Šiauliai Air Base, Lithuania.
NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission is a defensive deployment that sees Allies sending planes to patrol the airspace of the three Baltic States, who do not have fighter jets of their own. The Air Policing programme keeps fighter pilots on alert 24/7 and ready to scramble in case of suspicious air activity near the borders of Baltic Allies.
This recently videoed and released footage includes various shots of the pilots’ day-to-day activities at the air base and GoPro footage shot by the pilots performing training manoeuvres in the skies above Estonia.
- 1. (00:00) French pilot captain ‘Alexis’ sits in the cockpit of his Mirage 2000 fighter jet and puts on his helmet
- 2. (00:13) Air Policing and France flag badge on arm of pilot
- 3. (00:23) Pilots have a morning mission briefing
- 4. (00:37) Two pilots hurry to put on their flight gear as the alarm sounds for a simulated ‘Alpha Scramble’
- 5. (01:04) French pilots walk out to their aircraft to prepare to scramble
- 6. (01:40) Pilots conduct last-minute aircraft checks before scrambling
- 7. (01:46) Pilots drive Mirage 2000 aircraft out of hangars
- 8. (02:23) Aircraft taxi down runway toward take-off point
- 9. (02:35) Aircraft take off from Ämari air base in Estonia
- 10. (02:47) Mirage 2000 aircraft in flight
- 11. (02:51) French pilots in Mirage 2000 aircraft perform training manoeuvres in the skies above the Baltic States
- 12. (03:50) Mirage 2000 lands at Ämari air base in Estonia
- 13. (03:56) Aircraft taxis back to hangar
- 14. (04:02) French mechanics working on Mirage 2000 aircraft in hangars
- 15. (04:20) Soundbite (French) – Lieutenant-Colonel Joan ‘Duss’ Dussourd, NATO Baltic Air Policing mission “This is not the first time we have been in Ämari, Estonia. We were already here in 2018 and in past years we have been deployed to Lithuania and Poland. As always, we arrived with four planes. We are ready at any time to carry out real interceptions that we call ‘Alpha Scramble’, to intercept and verify the identity of any aircraft that is flying close to the Baltic States and does not fully comply with the rules of air navigation.”
- 16. (04:52) Soundbite (French) – Lieutenant-Colonel Joan ‘Duss’ Dussourd. “On a regular basis, we are able to take off on alert to check the identity of the aircrafts passing close to the Estonian coast in Baltic airspace. It could be one fighter jet or several, but also transport planes that are navigating through Baltic airspace. We take off and in a few minutes, we are ready next to them to identify them.”
- 17. (05:26) Soundbite (French) – Lieutenant-Colonel Joan ‘Duss’ Dussourd. “The Air Policing mission in the Baltic States is incredibly important for us. It allows us to show France’s commitment to NATO by intercepting any aircraft approaching NATO airspace 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
- 18. (05:39) Soundbite (French) – Captain ‘Alexis’ – NATO Baltic Air Policing mission. “My role as a pilot in the Air Police is to be the eyes of the controller – to fly up quickly, put myself next to the other plane, describe it and advise who is in the air and what they are doing there.”
- 19. (05:51) Soundbite (French) – Captain ‘Alexis’. “For me, being part of NATO means I can help countries that may not have our same capabilities, to be able to benefit from their experience and bring our experience to them.”