The United States is taking over the Baltic air policing mission two weeks ahead of Zapad 2017 (West), a large-scale military exercise to be held jointly by Russia and Belarus.
American F-15C Eagle fighter lifting off
© DELFI / Mindaugas Bajarūnas

An official changeover ceremony will take place at the Šiauliai military airbase on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said.

Seven US F-15C Eagle fighter jets landed at the base in northern Lithuania on Tuesday.

Four NATO fighters would normally carry out the mission from Lithuania in the past two years.

Some 140 military personnel from a US base in Britain will replace a Polish contingent that guarded Baltic airspace during the past four months.

This is the fifth Baltic air policing deployment for the US.

The mission was reinforced two weeks before the start of Zapad 2017. Minsk says that the exercise will involve 12,700 troops, but Lithuanian officials believe that as many as 100,000 soldiers may participate.

Lithuanian intelligence says that the Zapad scenario will likely include a simulated armed conflict with NATO and warns about possible incidents and provocations in the border area during the war games.

Russia and Belarus say that the exercise, which will run from Sept. 14 to 20, will defensive.

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