In the past 24 hours, two Italian F-35A fighter jets from the 32nd Wing TFA (Task Force Air), deployed at the Polish airbase in Malbork as part of additional measures implemented for the defense of the Eastern flank of the NATO Alliance in Europe – “Enhanced Air Policing” – have taken off twice following immediate scramble orders from the NATO Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Uedem, Germany.
The activation of the two F-35s from the Quick Reaction Alert – Intercept unit was requested because, on the mornings of January 29th and 30th, unidentified aircraft were flying in international airspace over the Baltic Sea near NATO borders.
Italian F-35 pilots, airborne within minutes, intercepted and identified the aircraft and remained in flight to protect the airspace under their jurisdiction. Once the need ceased, they returned to Malbork airport.
Air Shielding, of which the permanent Air Policing (AP) deployment is an integral part, is a NATO-led collective defense mission managed by the Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) in Ramstein, Germany, and is conducted continuously 365 days a year.
Activities conducted in the operational theater are carried out according to directives from the Joint Forces Operational Command (COVI), which is the High Command of Defense responsible for planning, coordinating, and directing joint exercises and operations both nationally and internationally.
The 32nd Wing Task Force Air, composed of approximately 150 men and women from the Italian Air Force, operates under the national direct dependence of COVI (Joint Forces Operational Command) and ensures the control and safeguarding of the northeastern flank of NATO – deploying four F-35A Lightning aircraft in a state of Quick Reaction Alert – Interceptor (QRA-I) in Poland, thus ensuring a rapid response to protect allied airspace.