On May 12, 2021, the German and Polish defense ministries signed an agreement authorizing the air forces of each country to intervene in case of need in the neighboring airspace.
Thus, in case of a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) mission, Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons will be able to cross into Poland, while Polish Air Force Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon and MiG-29 ‘Fulcrum’ fighters to enter German airspace, with the condition that pilots comply with orders given by the air traffic controllers of the nation over which they are flying.
“This agreement will be the future, to allow our QRA fighter aircraft to operate across borders in our combined airspace,” said Commander Centre Air Operations, Luftwaffe Lieutenant General Klaus Habersetzer.
This agreement will reinforce NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission. In recent years, most of the Polish airspace violations have been committed by Russian military planes operating in the Baltic Sea. Poland is scheduled to receive 32 Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighters to replace its Soviet-era aircraft and reinforce its airspace defense capabilities.
The Baltic Air Policing mission started in 2004 when the Baltic States joined NATO. It is one of the main missions of NATO air forces, which protects Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian airspaces from incursions, as these countries have no airborne capability of their own.
In 2020, NATO air forces across Europe reported having scrambled more than 400 times to intercept unknown aircraft approaching the airspace they cover. Almost 90% of these missions ‒ around 350 ‒ were Russian military aircraft.