Riigikantselei

Air Force

 

Commander of the Air Force Colonel Jaak Tarien

Estonian Air Force logo


Phone +372 717 3600
Fax +372 717 3608
air[at]mil.ee

Estonian Air Force has long and fascinating history. The roots of the current organization go back to the 21 November 1918 when the Commander of Engineering Battalion Voldemar Victor Riiberg assigned August Roos to organize the flight unit. The Independence War gave great impulses to the development of the young Air Force.

Estonian Air Force had more than 130 modern aircraft in the middle of 1930s. The organization consisted then the Naval Aviation Group, Flight School, Air Base, Air Defence Artillery Group. Estonian engineers designed and constructed the fighter aircrafts, which were with outstanding performance.

Estonian Air Force was re-established at 16. December 1991. The main goals were to gain the control over Estonian airspace and air defence of strategic objects. The Air force consist of three units today; the Air Force Staff, the Air Force Base, and the Air Surveillance Wing.

  • The Air Force has four main goals to accomplish for medium term;
  • To establish an air surveillance capability, and based on that , to begin the development of a national air defence system. To establish an air defence command and control capability.
  • To build up Ämari airfield as a prospective main NATO interoperable airfield and part of host nation support in Estonia.
  • To establish an Air Force communication and information system, which is interoperable with relevant NATO Integrated Extended Air Defence System NATIENADS. To develop a data exchange systems in the Air Force.
  • To prepare a rotary wing component of the Air Force.
     

The Estonian Air Force is a fully professional service of the Estonian Defence Forces. Since it’s re-establishment in 1994 the Estonian Air Force has been built up from scratch by a generation of young and talented airmen who embrace constant change and advances in technology. The eagerness and energy of the relatively young officer and NCO corps has made it possible that the Estonian Air Force operates 24/7/365 and is equipped with state-of-the-art modern systems.

The Estonian Air Force is designed to cooperate with NATO and its Allies and therefore is looking optimistically towards the future of elevated operational tempo across the board of its activities. Estonia is the smallest nation in NATO to have Air Force as an independent service branch. Limited manpower and resources have forced us to be highly efficient and shaped our focus which is set on cooperation with Allies and Partners. With insufficient resources to develop indigenous combat air power, the geographical position of Estonia dictates that our nation must be able to maintain control of its airspace to preserve our security interests.

The Estonian Air Force is the enabler that makes Allied air operations over Estonia possible. We operate our national Air C2 network which together with its sophisticated sensors is an organic part of the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System. Our Forward Air Controller program is combat-proven in Afghanistan and ready to work with our Allies in defence of our common values. The Ämari Air Base is the home of the NATO Baltic Enhanced Air Policing Mission since May 2014. On September 3rd 2014, during his historical visit to Tallinn, President Barack Obama stated:
“Today, I can announce that this initiative will include additional air force units and aircrafts for training exercises here in the Nordic-Baltic region. And we agree with our Estonian allies that an ideal location to host and support these exercises would be the Ämari Air Base here in Estonia.”
Since then the Ämari Air Base has seen several squadron-level training deployments by the USAF and other Air Forces. With our flexible airspace, air-to-ground range, low-level flying area system, and other attractive training opportunities, the Ämari AB is open to host Allied and Partner nations’ flying units.

Estonian Air Force Headquarters

The main function of the Air Force Headquarters is to support the Estonian Air Force Commander’s decision making process.
The Air Force Headquarters are led by the Chief of Staff who is also in command when the Commander of the Air Force is absent.
The Headquarters consist of divisions and branches from A1 to A9 (A9 being civil-military cooperation) and some command group elements, e.g. Air Force Master Sergeant, Flight Safety Officer, Chief Engineer, Legal Advisor Service, Public Affairs Specialist, Air Force Chaplain and Mail and Office Support Section.

The Air Force Headquarters’ duties include the planning and harmonization of the development, manning, training, infrastructure and budgeting of the Air Force capability requirements in cooperation with the Estonian Defence Forces and the Ministry of Defence. Since the Estonian Air Force is tailor-made for cooperation with NATO, a considerable effort is made to maintain and enhance interoperability with NATO and Allied nations.
The Air Force Headquarters also select distinguished airmen for serving in NATO posts at the Heavy Airlift Wing (Papa, HUN), Combined Control and Reporting Centre at Karmelava (LTU), Combined Air Operations Centre at Uedem (GER), AIRCOM (Ramstein, GER) and at the Estonian Mission to NATO (Brussels, BEL).

The Estonian Air Force has supported and will continue to support numerous NATO and allied operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Icelandic air policing mission, etc. with planners and specialists, e.g. intercept controllers, forward air controllers, meteorological specialists, air traffic controllers, airfield specialists and air planners.
In crisis or wartime the Air Force HQ will adopt the 5-division structure of the Joint Force Air Component Headquarters in order to focus on situational awareness and operations. The required skill sets of the Air Force Headquarters’ airmen are kept current by frequent training and exercises in Estonia and abroad, across NATO.

Ämari Airbase

Ämari AirbaseThe Ämari Airbase is one of the two tactical military units of the Estonian Defence Forces under the command of the Commander of the Estonian Air Force, with the main tasks of airbase operations and organisation of aviation activities in the Estonian Defence Forces. The Ämari Airbase as an Air Force unit was founded on 15 May 1997. Up until 2004 the airbase also housed a conscript training facility, but today the base is only staffed with active servicemen and civilian employees.

In 2008–2012 the Ämari Airbase faced a major overhaul of the obsolete base infrastructure. The construction works were carried out in order to link Ämari into the NATO collective air defence system. Starting from 1 May 2014, NATO’s air policing fighter detachment is based at Ämari.
On 30 April 2015, the Estonian Civil Aviation Administration as a national supervisory body awarded the certificate of an air navigation service provider to the Ämari Airbase, in compliance with respective national air regulations.
The airbase is comprised of three groups and three centres and is commanded by an airbase Commander.

The Base Operation Centre provides short-term planning of airbase operations, coordinates and supervises the activities and resources of airbase subunits.
The Base Defence Operations Centre is responsible for the short-term planning and supervision of the required base defence activities.
The flight group conducts air operations and training with the aircrafts at the disposal of the Estonian Defence Forces. It also manages and maintains the aircraft equipment. The main task of defence aviation is the training of the units of the Air Force and other services, organisation of support activities for various operations and the provision of professional assistance in public interests in accordance with the Administrative Co-operation Act.
The Airfield Operations Group manages and maintains the air traffic area of the airfield and is responsible for the provision of air traffic control, flight information, alerting, navigation and meteorology services in the Ämari airfield and its vicinity.
The airbase also includes the Air Force Support Group, which provides all of the actual logistic and communication support to the Air Force. The Air Force Support Group is also the manager of the excise warehouse of the Estonian Defence Forces and responsible for the provision of airfield services.
In addition the airbase includes the Air Force Training Centre with its primary tasks of conducting junior non-commissioned officer training and in-service training in the Air Force. In cooperation with all subunits of the Air Force, the wartime and reserve units of the Air Force are prepared and trained for their wartime mission or for international military missions respectively. When required, the Air Force Training Centre provides training modules for other services of the Estonian Defence Forces.
In addition to the aviation activities of NATO’s air policing fighter detachment and national training flights, the Ämari Airbase hosts a large number of aircrafts of allied countries during exercises. The first larger international exercise was conducted on the airbase in 1997 (Baltic Challenge 97). Since 2012, international exercises or exercises involving a large international component have included Kevadtorm, the Estonian–US exercise Saber Strike and Fighter Training Deployment, and the NATO air policing exercise BRTE. Also, Swedish and Finnish fighters have visited the airbase during joint exercises with NATO countries. The airbase is also visited by transport and special purpose aircrafts of several countries. The Ämari Airbase is the arrival and departure base for Estonian army units in international missions.
Lieutenant Colonel Ülar Lõhmus serves as Commander of the Ämari Airbase.

Air Surveillance Wing

Air Surveillance WingVision: Completing the mission through teamwork and recognition of people.
Mission: To safeguard the integrity of Estonian national airspace by contributing to the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS) with robust early warning and air defence mission command and control in peacetime, crisis, and war.
The Air Surveillance Wing (ASW) is one of the two tactical units in the Estonian Air Force established on 1 January 1998 with its headquarters located in the Ämari Air Base in Ämari. The ASW commands three groups to conduct its mission.
The Engineering and Technical Group provides vital surveillance input from five military radar sites all over Estonia. In addition, the Engineering and Technical Group manages tactical datalinks and ground-air-ground radios to enable the Ämari Command and Reporting Centre (the second group of the ASW) to produce its recognized air picture and command and control air defence assets within its area of operational responsibility.
The ASW’s radar sites are newly procured or recently modernized, providing excellent coverage over the relatively flat landscape of Estonia, thus exceeding even NATO’s minimum military requirements.
The Ämari Command and Reporting Post also supports NATO’s Baltic air policing day-to-day operations. Over recent years, the Ämari CRP has had numerous opportunities to be part of allied training events in the Baltic region, which has greatly increased the proficiency of its operational personnel.
The third group of the ASW is permanently located in Lithuania as the Combined Command Reporting Centre (CRC) Karmelava’s Estonian Detachment, which, together with Latvian and Lithuanian detachments, supports NATO’s Baltic air policing operations within the framework of BALTNET.
The ASW trains and qualifies its active duty personnel on location, in cooperation with civil enterprises, or in cooperation with our NATO and non-NATO allies.
Within the framework of allied cooperation, the ASW has supported NATO’s air policing mission in Iceland several times with fighter controllers and fighter allocators together with the US and Royal Danish Air Forces.

BALTNET

BALTNET (Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Control System) is an integral part of the NATINAMDS across the territories of the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania.
BALTNET is a military cooperation framework, based on mutual trust and respect, for sharing surveillance data, tactical datalinks, and ground-air-ground radios for a common purpose.
BALTNET enables the three Baltic States to enhance each nation’s limited capabilities into a unified situation awareness and Air Command and Control (C2) capability. This ensures that the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) unit, e.g the Command and Reporting Post, of any of the countries is equally capable of supporting NATO IAMD (Integrated Air and Missile Defence) operations over the airspace of the other two nations.
In addition to national ASACS units, BALTNET includes a fourth unit: the CRC Karmelava (located near Kaunas, Lithuania) where the air force personnel of all three Baltic States together support NATINAMDS operations and NATO Baltic air policing operations.

Baltic Air Policing in Ämari Airbase

Baltic Air PolicingOne of NATO’s leading principles is common commitment and mutual co-operation among sovereign states. NATO air policing is an example of how NATO provides security to its members. It safeguards the integrity of the sovereign airspace of the Alliance members in peacetime.
When the Baltic States joined NATO in March 2004, the 24/7 task of policing the airspace of the Baltic States was conducted only from Lithuania's Air Force Base at Šiauliai International Airport. Since May 2014, because of the changed security situation in Europe, the Ämari Air Base in Estonia is also involved in policing the airspace of the Baltic States.

BAP missions in Ämari Airbase:

Date Air Force Aircraft
30.04.2014 – 29.08.2014 Danish Royal Air Force F-16
29.08.2014 – 02.01.2015 German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon
02.01.2015 – 05.05.2015 Spanish Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon
05.05.2015 – 25.08.2015 Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon
25.08.2015 – 07.01.2016 German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon
07.01.2016 –  Belgian Air Component F-16

History of the Estonian Air Force

History of the Estonian Air Force

The Estonian Air Force was born with the Republic of Estonia. The first Air Force unit was formed on 21 November 1918. This, however, did not yet constitute a separate armed service, but a subunit in the formation of a larger engineering unit. Soon after, the first plane was acquired as booty from the communists – the fighter Farman HF-30 of French origin. Over the course of time, other aircraft were accumulated – mostly, bought on debt. By the end of the War of Independence in 1920, the Estonian armed forces had 44 planes at their disposal. Unfortunately only a few of them were airworthy.

In the period after the War of Independence and before the Soviet occupation (1920–1940) the Estonian Air Force was mainly comprised of three air units based in Tallinn, Tartu and Rakvere. There was an airbase along with the workshops in Tallinn. The flight school and the air defence artillery group operating as a part of the Air Force were also based in Tallinn.
In the first decade of the period of independence in particular, numerous aircrafts were acquired. These included aircraft produced in Germany, France and also Great Britain. The peak number of aircraft was reached in 1932 when 77 mostly up-to-date planes were registered. In the wake of World War II, large-scale commissions were made from Germany and Great Britain, but most of the planes ordered never arrived due to the war. In the 1930s, fairly adequate aircrafts were designed and built in Estonia, too.

As the Republic of Estonia was wiped off the world map in 1940, it brought along a more than 50-year disruption in the history of the Estonian Air Force; yet, both during the war and also after the war, there were Estonians serving in the air forces of Russia (USSR), Germany, the United States, and other countries.

Upon the re-establishment of the Republic of Estonia and the Estonian Defence Forces, re-formation of the Air Force started immediately. In 1994, Colonel Vello Loemaa, currently a retired Major General, was appointed as Commander of the Estonian Air Force.
The Estonian Air Force consists of three elements. The Air Force Headquarters was establishes in 1994, the Air Base in 1997 and the Air Surveillance Wing in 1998.

The former Soviet military airbase at Ämari became the airbase of the Estonian Air Force. Between 2008 and 2012 the airbase underwent a complete renovation programme, to such a degree that it could now be considered a new base. Since 1 May 2014, it is the base for the NATO Baltic Air Policing Unit. The airbase has its own small flight unit that includes a Soviet-era light transport aircraft An-2, and Robinson R-44 helicopters acquired in 2002. In 2006, the project of L-39 training jets was launched. Currently there are two aircraft of this type at the disposal of the airbase.
The Air Surveillance Wing started monitoring the Estonian airspace with radars of Soviet origin. In 2003 a modern TPS-77 radar manufactured by Lockheed Martin was placed into operation at Kellavere radar site and in the spring of 2013, the Ground Master 403 radar manufactured by the ThalesRaytheonSystems was installed on the island of Muhu. In January 2015 a radar station equipped with a radar by the same manufacturer was opened at Tõikamäe near Otepää. In 2000, the Ämari Air Sovereignty Operations Centre, the predecessor of the current Command and Reporting Post, was opened. In 2006, the post achieved fighter controller capacity.
An important step for the Estonian Air Force was joining NATO in 2004. As a result we have a modern and well-functioning airbase, an Air Surveillance Wing in the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defence System (NATINAMDS), and the Air Force Headquarters functioning efficiently within the framework of NATO.

Estonian Air Force Celebrated its 95 Anniversary with Air Show

On the 20th of July 2014 the Estonian Air Force held an air show on the Ämari Airbase to celebrate the 95th anniversary of its foundation. The show attracted more than 10,000 spectators who enjoyed both the static display and aerobatics of various aircrafts. All in all the planes and helicopters of nine different nations took part in the show: the Orlik Aerobatic Team, a transport aircraft C-295 and fighters MiG-29 from Poland, Danish fighters F-16, Lithuanian jets L-39ZA and a transport plane L-410, a Dutch jets F-16 and a transport aircraft C-130, Swedish jets JAS-39C Grippen, Belgian jets F-16, a Finnish fighter F-18, British fighters Eurofighter Typhoon, and Estonian planes An-2, L-39 ja L-410 and helicopters R-44 and AW-139.
The Royal Air Force aerobatic team the Red Arrows were also invited, but due to a conflict with another show, they performed over the Tallinn Bay on the 23rd of June.

Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces, 717 1900, mil[at]mil.ee, Juhkentali 58, EE15007, Tallinn, Estonia.

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