A series of images of the Vilkas Detachment at the Šiauliai Air Base

The icy deployment of the Spanish EF-18 and A400M planes under the snow in Lithuania

At the end of March, 190 airmen, 8 EF-18 Hornet fighters and an A400M tanker plane from the Spanish Air Force were deployed to Lithuania.

The flight between mountains of Spanish EF-18 fighters in the 'Mach Loop' of Greece
Icicles on the wings of the Spanish EF-18M fighters of the Viespe Detachment

This new deployment is made up of personnel and aircraft from the Wings 12 (Torrejón) and 15 (Zaragoza) of the Air Combat Command (MACOM) with the EF-18; from the 31st Wing of the General Air Command (MAGEN), based in Zaragoza, with the A400M; and the Logistics Center for Armament and Experimentation (CLAEX), which supports this deployment in electronic warfare issues. This contingent forms Block 65 of the Vilkas Detachment, as the Spanish aerotactic detachments (DAT) in Lithuania are known in NATO's Baltic Air Police (BAP) missions.

Precisely, this year marks 20 years of BAP missions. Its launch occurred just after the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to NATO on March 29, 2004. Spain has already participated in 11 deployments in these BAP missions, 8 of them in the Šiauliai Air Base, in Lithuania, where the Spanish aviators are now.

The purpose of the BAP missions is to provide air defense to the three small Baltic republics, whose modest air forces lack their own combat aircraft to confront the frequent Russian incursions into that area. Russian planes that flight between the Kaliningrad enclave and Russian territory usually violate international aviation regulations, flying with the transponder off and without communicating a flight plan to air control, which requires Allied fighters to be activated with Scramble alerts to proceed with the identification of unidentified aircraft flying over the vicinity of Alliance airspace.

Due to the latitude in which they are located, and despite the arrival of spring, the Spanish soldiers of the Vilkas Detachment and their planes have had to face freezing weather during the Ramstein Alloy 2024 exercise, developed at the end of April in Estonia.

The planes that were not left safely in hangars have faced the inconveniences of snow and snow at the Šiauliai Air Base. This situation has left some striking images of the Spanish EF-18 fighters covered in snow, which you can see in this entry.

In order to take off, the Lithuanian Air Force deployed its recently acquired Global ER-2875 deicer trucks and used by Lithuanian airmen received a training session by US airmen belonging to the 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron (435 CRSS) in January 2023.

Last year, 8 EF-18 fighters deployed at Feteşti Air Base, Romania, experienced a similar situation, in which ice icicles could even be seen hanging from the edges of the wings of the planes.

The photos you see in this entry have been published by NATO and by the General Staff of Defense (EMAD) of Spain.

Global ER-2875 deicer trucks used by the Lithuanian Air Force are designed for large aircraft, such as the Airbus A380, the Lockheed C-5 Galaxy or the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, according to the manufacturer of those trucks. They have tanks with a capacity of up to 10,600 liters.

Here we see one of the Lithuanian Global ER-2875 trucks clearing ice from the Spanish A400M, the T.23-05 (31-25). Next to the tanker plane we also see a Mercedes-Benz G-Class SUV of the Lithuanian Air Force (as indicated by the emblem of the Columns of Gediminas at its door), with a Spanish hydraulic mule of the EINSA brand connected to the plane. This equipment is used to check the status of the aircraft's hydraulic systems.

An EF-18 preparing to take off in a hangar at the Šiauliai Air Base. This base has its origins in the First World War, when the Germans installed an airfield for zeppelins there. It was the first base of the Lithuanian Air Force after the country's independence in 1918. Today it is the only base of the Lithuanian Air Force and its headquarters, in addition to being used as an international civil airport. It is in the process of expansion, but at the moment smaller than many allied air bases, and hence part of the planes have to be parked on the platform, outdoors.

The Spanish A400M T.23-05 taking off at the Šiauliai Air Base, in the middle of a snowy landscape. It should be noted that Spanish planes are prepared to operate in these cold weather conditions. It must be taken into account, in fact, that the F/A-18C Hornet fighters of the Finnish Air Force operate in these cold conditions for much of the year.

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