NATO’s Air Shielding mission is an increased air and missile defense posture along the Alliance’s eastern flank, implemented in the wake of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. On October 12nd 2022, The United States F-22s, Polish F-16s and MiG-29s together with Italian Eurofighters conducted a planned one-day series of aerial maneuvers. On this day, NATO Allied Air Command also hosted aerial photographers from all countries due to showcase how Allied fighter jets from Italy, Poland and the United States work together shielding NATO’s eastern flank. On behalf of Defence Turkey Magazine, I witnessed first-hand and captured images of the take-off of Polish and U.S. fighter jets and also flew on a transport aircraft meeting the fighters in the air.

Date: Issue 119 - December 2022

First of all, I would like to tell you about NATO’S Allied Air Command. On June 28, 1974, the first NATO air headquarters – Allied Air Forces Central Europe or AAFCE – was established at Ramstein Air Base with staff from Belgium, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Its task was to provide central direction and control for the air forces in the European Central Region through the co-ordination of the headquarters of Second Allied Tactical Air Force based at Rheindahlen and Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force based at Heidelberg. 

During the early 1990s, a major reorganization of the NATO command and control structure was initiated. Given the decreasing numbers of Allied aircraft in Europe, a downsizing of Central Region Air Force headquarters occurred during 1993; AAFCE was expanded to absorb their functions. On July 1, 1993, the new AIRCENT headquarters was officially formed.