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NATO states have begun a series of air defense exercises
NATO states have begun a series of air defense exercises in the Baltic states, involving fighter jet flights over the countries' capitals, the Estonian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Western military alliance said earlier this month that during the Baltic Air Sovereignty Training Event II (BAST-E II), "the populations of the Estonian and Lithuanian Capitals may well see NATO fighter aircraft overfly their cities."

"Onlookers in the vicinity of Riga International Airport will also see NATO fighter aircraft enacting a practice Air Policing exercise," the statement on NATO's website said.

The one-day event is focused on improving air interoperability and developing of NATO air forces' capabilities.

In carrying out the fly-bys, NATO aims "to highlight reaffirmed commitment to and ongoing solidarity with the three Baltic States."

The Estonian ministry said the aircraft being used in the drills are F-16s from the U.S., Poland and Denmark, L-159 training aircraft from the Czech Republic and L-39s from Lithuania, as well as transportation AN-2s from Estonia, and a U.S. AWACS E-3A surveillance plane.

The exercises are a continuation of drills held last October.

A NATO agreement on airspace security over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia is set to expire in 2011, and the three countries are currently pushing for the agreement to be extended to 2018.


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