As of 1 January 2020 security of the Baltic airspace will be ensured by three Command and Reporting Centers designed for specific national airspace surveillance, based in Tallinn, Lielvarde, and Karmėlava, instead of one joint unit. It will enhance capabilities of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System, regional interoperability, and reliability of protection of the Alliance airspace. On December 19 the new BALTNET (Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Control System) configuration and three national centers in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were inaugurated at a ceremony in Kaunas.
“With back-up capable regional air surveillance and control capability we are heading to provide better survivability, enhanced opportunities for future peacetime and defensive operations. At the same time advanced structures imply complexity and more responsibility that we will ensure through enhanced regional cooperation,” Colonel Dainius Guzas, Commander of the Lithuanian Air Force said.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Deputy Commander of the Combined Air Operations Centre Brigadier General Slawomir Zakowski, Commander of the Estonian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Janek Lehiste and Commander of the Latvian Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Viesturs Masiulis, and other representatives of the Lithuanian National Defence System and guests.
BALTNET is fully integrated into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) and ensures security of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace. The new configuration of BALTNET, on the basis of the new agreement, comprises three separate Control and Reporting Centers (CRCs) in each of the Baltic states, radiolocation posts, radars, radio equipment and communication lines. All the three Control and Reporting Centers will conduct air surveillance in their respective territories and near them, exchange data, and control the NATO Air Policing Mission aircraft on a rotational basis. In case any of the CRCs cannot carry the functions, another CRC will back up. If a violator is spotted in the airspace of any of the Baltic states, NATO Baltic air policing aircraft are scrambled to intercept it.
The BALTNET co-operation project was launched in 1998 as a system for acquisition, coordination, distribution and display of air surveillance data within the three Baltic States. Its objectives encompass international co-operation between civilian and military air traffic authorities and the development of the respective functions in all participating states. As such, BALTNET was a major stepping stone for helping to the Baltic States to contribute to and to integrate with NATO structures. Since 2004, when the Baltic States joined the Alliance, the system has been an integral component of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. Within this framework, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania established and jointly manned the Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at Karmėlava, Lithuania, which reported to CAOC at Uedem. This one centre will now be replaced by three national CRCs in each of the Baltic States. The CRC in Karm4lava will be a national instead of the joint centre in an effort to further improve capabilities and interoperability of the newly formed CRCs.