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Anti-aircraft missiles participate in a military exercise in the Baltics for the first time. The United States deployed a battery of Patriot long-range anti-aircraft missiles in Lithuania to be used in NATO war games — the first time the advanced defense system has been brought to the Baltics where Russia has air superiority.

The Patriot battery was brought to the Siauliai military airbase, ahead of the Tobruk Legacy exercise, and will be withdrawn when the exercise ends July 22, a Lithuanian defense ministry spokeswoman told world news agencies.

According to, the NATO war games take place ahead of the large-scale Zapad 2017 exercise by Russia and Belarus, which NATO officials believe could bring more than 100,000 troops to the borders of Poland and the three Baltic NATO allies — the biggest such Russian maneuvers since 2013.

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia possess only short-range anti-aircraft missiles — leaving the skies largely unprotected in the event of hostilities — and have expressed concern about their air defense weakness following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

As a deterrent to Russia in the flashpoint region, the United States has deployed detachments of troops since the Crimea annexation, which have been augmented by four NATO battle groups of more than 1,000 soldiers.

Referring to the NATO exercise, Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimondas Karoblis said: “The deployment of Patriots is important because it demonstrates that such moves are no longer a taboo in the region.””Air defense, including ground-based defenses, is one of the holes in our defenses, and we will not solve it without help from our allies,” he said.

The Patriot batteries were used in 200 combat engagements against manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles, according to its maker U.S. firm Raytheon.

Various challenges to air and missile defense will be presented at the forthcoming 6th Israeli Air Missile Defense Conference & Exhibition (IAMD). The conference organized by iHLS, Israel Missile Defense Association (IMDA) and the Israel Society of Aeronautics and Astronautics (ISAA) will take place on July 24th, 2017 at the LAGO Conference Center, Rishon LeZion.

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