Italian Air Force Eurofighters officially took up the mission of safeguarding NATO’s skies above the Baltic region flying out of Malbork, Poland.
On Monday, August 1, the Commander of the Operational Department of the Joint Forces Operational Command, Major General Achille Cazzaniga, officiated the welcome ceremony for the Italian Eurofighter detachment Air Task Force “White Eagle” deployed here to support NATO’s Air Policing mission. In the presence of numerous Polish civilian and military representatives led by Major General Cezary Wisniewski, Deputy General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces, General Cazzaniga, oversaw the moment the Italian, Polish and NATO flags were raised in the Malbork skies.
After arriving at Malbork on June 28, the four Italian Air Force Eurofighters from the 4th, 36th, 37th and 51st Air Force Wings were declared ready and assigned under NATO orders to execute Air Policing sorties as of 30 July, upon reaching Full Operational Capability ahead of schedule. The Eurofighters augment NATO fighters from Hungary and Germany, deployed to Lithuania and Estonia, respectively, to provide the Alliance with a credible and flexible capability to protect the regional skies above the Baltic Sea.
The commander of the Italian Detachment, Colonel Salvatore Florio, emphasised the Italian Air Force’s deep commitment to NATO. “There is nothing more important in this part of the world, at this time, than what we are all doing here every day, with the constant commitment of the Italian government and the Air Force, to maintain and protect NATO countries, free and in peace,” he said. Colonel Florio will lead the women and men of the Italian Detachment for the next 120 days while at Malbork. “Our Eurofighters contribute to the reinforcement of NATO’s deterrence and defence posture on the eastern flank; controlled by Allied Air Command at Ramstein, we are fuelling NATO’s Air Shielding effort, increasing cohesion among member nations and guaranteeing the territorial integrity of the Alliance members,” he added.
While Italian jets – since 2015 – have regularly deployed to support NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission out of Lithuania and Estonia, this is the first time the Italian Air Force uses Malbork as a temporary base to fly missions alongside the Polish Air Force aircraft jets and all other Allies in the region.
The Italian deployment to Malbork is a continued use of that air base in support of NATO’s effort to assure and protect the Allies in the Baltic Sea region. Poland has hosted NATO fighter detachments at Malbork Air Base under NATO’s enhanced Air Policing arrangements in 2014 and 2015 when NATO deployed additional fighters in the region in response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
In 2019 and 2020, the base received a Portuguese fighter detachment for training and exercise activities under the Assurance Measures, and in 2021 Malbork hosted a Turkish F-16 fighter detachment. The Polish Air Force ensures 24/7 NATO Air Policing with their F-16 and MiG-29 fighter jets; Allied detachments enhance this capability flying alongside the Polish fighters.