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Home >> World
UPDATED: 16:47, November 23, 2005
NATO to strengthen airspace patrol in Baltic countries
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The commander of Lithuania's armed forces said on Tuesday NATO was to take measures to enhance its efficiency of airspace patrol in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, said press reports reaching here from Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General James Jones, is drafting a report to figure out the current military infrastructure in the Baltic countries and put forward proposals to improve efficiency of the alliance's airspace patrol in the region, Valdas Tutkus said.

Since the three countries joined NATO in March last year, the patrol of their airspace has been carried out alternately between NATO member states.

Tutkus said the NATO report would be partly based on conclusions and proposals made by Lithuania's military authorities in the wake of an incident involving a Russian Su-27 jet fighter.

A Russian Su-27 jet fighter crashed on Sept. 15 in Lithuania during a flight across the NATO member country to the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, and the pilot ejected safely.

The plane, which was thought to be carrying an aircraft identification system when it went down after an unauthorized entry into Lithuania's airspace, crashed some 20 minutes after takeoff.

A German fighter, which was then responsible for the patrol of the country's airspace, took off only after the crash.

Lithuanian media expressed doubts about NATO's ability to protect the country's airspace in an efficient way, suspecting that the incident could have been made deliberately by Russia to test Lithuania's airspace surveillance and the efficiency of NATO's airspace patrol.

On Nov. 9, the three Baltic countries decided at a meeting of defense ministers to set up a command center in order to raise the efficiency of their air defense systems and of NATO's airspace patrol.

Tutkus said NATO's leadership has given a positive response to the proposal.

Source: Xinhua

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