US deploys Patriots in Lithuania for NATO war games

US troops deploy a launching station for the Patriot air and missile defence system at a test range in Sochaczew, Poland, as part of a joint exercise with Polish troops (AFP Photo/JANEK SKARZYNSKI)

Vilnius (AFP) - The United States deployed a battery of Patriot ground-to-air missiles in Lithuania on Tuesday as part of multinational NATO exercises in the the Baltic country, its defence ministry announced.

The deployment "reflects the firm engagement of the United States to ensure Lithuania's security and its readiness to send strategic capability to the region," a ministry statement said.

The missiles will return home after the NATO exercises, called Tobruq Legacy 2017 end on July 22, said ministry spokeswoman Ausra Vaitkeviciute.

The exercises involve troops from Britain, the US, Lithuania and Poland.

The move comes amid heightened tensions with Russia, which is itself holding massive military exercises in Belarus and Kaliningrad in September.

Moscow last year deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland, rattling nearby NATO members.

The Patriot is a mobile air defence system made by Raytheon designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, low-flying cruise missiles and aircraft.

US President Donald Trump last week publicly endorsed NATO's one-for-all-and-all-for-one mutual defence pact.

"The United States has demonstrated not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article Five," Trump said, referring to the bloc's mutual defence commitment.