UK PILOTS TAKE OVER AIR-PATROL DUTY IN BALTICS

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VILNIUS, October 9 (RIA Novosti's Vladimir Vodo) - The Royal Air Force's Vickers VC10 transport plane is to bring about 100 British pilots and air technicians to the Lithuanian capital on Saturday to take over the air-patrol duty in the three Baltic states - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which, together with Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April 2004.

The British pilots and air support staff will be deployed at Lithuania's air base in Zoyunyai near the city of Siauliai. They will replace Danish pilots who have been on the air-policing duty there since July 1, 2004.

The British contingent should have taken over starting October 1. However, the local runway proved to be inadequate for the British F-3 Tornado fighters which are heavier and more powerful than the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft currently on service in the Danish Air Force. As a result, the duty take-over procedure had to be delayed.

At present, the 2,100 meter-long runway is in place and ready for the landing of the Royal Air Force's F-3 Tornado fighters.

In all, four such fighters of the Royal Air Force's 43rd Squadron deployed at the Lucars air base in Scotland will be engaged in the air patrolling of the Baltic skies.

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