Latvian Air Force (Latvijas Gaisa Speki)
Latvian Air Force (Latvian: Latvijas Gaisa speki) is the aviation branch of the Latvian armed forces. In 1994 the armed forces included 180 service members in the air force. The armed forces were poorly equipped. The air force's equipment included two Soviet An-2 and two Czechoslovak L-410 aircraft and several Soviet Mi-2 and Mi-8 helicopters. Today the total number of personnel is about 250. The air force has no air combat capability, thus the defence of Latvian air space is maintained by NATO, with rotating Baltic Air Policing detachments of four aircraft to Lithuania at four-monthly intervals.
The swastika symbol had a history and usage which dates from long before the nazis co-opted it. In Latvia, it was called the Ugunskrusts (which translates as "fire cross") and was a positive cultural symbol centuries before the Nazis. Latvian aviators adopted this symbol in 1919, and its use continued until 1940.
One of the key missions of the Air Forces is the implementation of the BALTNET Project. The goal of the project is to create a unitary air surveillance system of the Baltic States, which would be integrated in the NATO air surveillance system in the future. Regional Air Surveillance Co-ordination Centre (RASCC) in Karmevala, Lithuania, and national centers in Latvia – at the Riga airport – and Lithuania and Estonia have been established within the BALTNET Project. RASCC covers two operative elements – surveillance and co-ordination. International crews of the three Baltic States are on duty at the Regional Centre. The task of the national centres is to detect the violations of the territorial air space and to react on them, as well as to integrate the information of all the national surveillance active resources and the RASCC.
In 2003, the 3D long-range air surveillance radar TPS-117 was set up in Rezekne and the 2D medium-range radar ASR-7 was set up in Ventspils. Fitting of the radars was an essential contribution to the increase of the Latvian defence capabilities because they will ensure a full surveillance and control of the Latvian air space. Both radars have substantially increased the Latvian air surveillance capabilities, search and rescue operation efficiency and flight safety, especially in the events of aircraft equipment failure. Radars ASR-7 and TPS-117 are integrated into the unitary air surveillance system BALTNET and provide a full coverage of the Baltic air space.
Mission of the Air Forces is to:
- provide for the control and defence of the national air space;
- provide combat and mobilisation readiness for units;
- participate in people and object search and rescue operations;
- perform air transportation duties;
- provide air defence.
Air Forces consist of the Aviation Squadron, Air Defence Wing and Air Surveillance Squadron.
Achievements of 2003:
- development of the NATO adequate and compliant Air Command and Control System has been commenced in order to integrate it to the NATO Integrated Air Defence System;
- the 2D medium-range radar ASR-7 has been set up in Ventspils radio-technical post and connected to the BALTNET system;
- the 3D long-range radar TPS-117 has been set up in Rezekne radio-technical post and connected to the BALTNET system;
- agreement on procuring of two Helicopters Mi-8 has been signed;
- transportation of the NAF soldier contingent to the locations of international missions has been provided;
- AF helicopters have participated in several search and rescue operations at the Baltic Sea; – training of aircraft crews by participation in local and international military exercises has been provided.
Plans for 2004 were:
- establish joint Allied Forces Northern Europe - AFNORTH – and Latvian Air Forces working group to facilitate the integration to the NATO Integrated Air Defence System (NATINADS);
- enhance the Air Command and Control (C2) system, Operation Concepts and Standard Operation Procedures (SOP) in order to ensure the integration of BALTNET into NATINADS system, set up and upgrade the required devices and equipment; By December 2004, complete the certification of the BALTNET security system compliant to the NATO classification level “Classified”;
- in collaboration with the civil aviation and other state institutions, continue to enhance the military air traffic control process in order to ensure a flexible usage of the air space for air patrolling operations;
- conduct flights of specially equipped NATO aircrafts with the purpose to assess the radiation coverage of the military radars in the Latvian air space;
- start to develop the ground-air-ground (GAG) ultra-short wave radio network, set up the NATO-compliant navigation and identification equipment;
- enhance the national air defence concept in accordance with the national and NATO requirements; enhance the communications network at Air Defence units, and establish a communication line between the Air Defence Wing and the national Air Support Operation Centre (ASOC); continue to enhance the infrastructure of the Air Defence Wing in Lielvarde and the live shooting-range of Škede;
- commence the procurement of the mobile air defence weapon system RBS-70 by procuring one RBS-70 battery every year in order to provide one wing by the end of 2006.
The training of NATO Forward Air Controllers (FACs), was the focus at Adazi Training Area (TA), Latvia, on 21 and 22 July 2010. This training event for FACs from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania is put together by NATO's Headquarters Allied Air Command Ramstein (HQ AC Ramstein) to demonstrate mutual support among Allies and to hone Air-Land Integration capabilities. Baltic Region Training Event VI (BRTE VI) is another event in a series that HQ AC Ramstein has scheduled since late 2008 to reaffirm NATO's commitment to and solidarity with the Baltic States and increases NATO's visibility in the region. This time, Allies join their efforts at Adazi, near the Latvian Capital, Riga, to train their FACs in challenging scenarios.
Latvia and Michigan have been partners in the U.S. National Guard’s State Partnership for Peace program for 20 years. Over the years, Michigan and Latvia have hosted a number of exchange programs and participated in several training exercises together. Latvian combat controllers routinely work closely with Michigan Air National Guard joint terminal attack controllers, known as JTACS, at the Grayling Air Gunnery Ranger in northern Michigan.
The Michigan Air National Guard partnered with Latvia on two specific projects, working closely together during Saber Strike 2012, a multinational, tactical field training exercise based in Estonia and neighboring Latvia that involved more than 2,000 personnel from a total of eight nations; and working together on conducting a survey and development plan for a military air field in Latvia, using an airfield that had seen little use since Latvia won its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. In addition to the Saber Strike operations, a team of about 20 Michigan Airmen were working with the Latvian Air Force on the base site survey plan at Lielvarde Air Base. The air base is operational, but the Latvian prime minister said his countries goal is to work with NATO to best determine what specialty services or operations may be best suited for the base and to develop the base accordingly.Mid-range helicopter replacement project aimd to gradually replace the Mi-17 mid-range helicopters at the disposal of the NAF and to purchase four UH-60M “Black Hawk” helicopters. As a result of the project implementation, the maintenance and development of the NAF tactical air transport capability will be ensured. Project implementation time is from 2018 to 2024. Financing is 175 million EUR, including 15.5 mln. USD US co - financing. The project includes : purchase of helicopters and necessary equipment, training of personnel, purchase of spare parts, implementation of the system, airworthiness and operating procedures in accordance with US standards. The UH-60M "Black Hawk" is the most compliant helicopter for both military and civilian tasks. The main advantage of the UH-60M Black Hawk is its construction and viability, as the Black Hawk helicopters are designed primarily for military use in crisis situations with multifunctional equipment capable of combat, search and rescue, medical evacuation, transportation, firefighting and emergency response. They have high maneuverability, ballistic and impact resistance, as well as easy maintenance. The UH-60M "Black Hawk" helicopters will be prepared to be equipped with weapon systems. The introduction of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters in the National Army will allow continued close cooperation with both the US Armed Forces and the Michigan National Guard in the training of helicopter pilots and technicians and joint tactical training for further maintenance. The Michigan National Guard has also made significant contributions to the development of the National Armed Forces Aviation Base to date, helping to develop and test aerodrome reception capabilities, as well as training specialists.
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