WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States is set to deploy F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to Europe very soon to show its “commitments to the security and stability” of its European allies, said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.
“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” Secretary James told Pentagon reporters.
James did not provide details about the specific number of fighter jets, dates, or location of the deployment, the first of its kind outside air shows.
However, the Air Force secretary did say that the deployment was consistent with Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s recent call for a strong and balanced approach to Russia.
The presence of the fighter jets in the region is expected to be rotational and specifically for training.
“For the Air Force, an F-22 deployment is certainly on the strong side of the coin, and so today, we are announcing that we will very soon deploy F-22s to Europe to support combatant commander requirements, and as part of the European reassurance initiative,” said the senior Air Force official.
“Airmen who are a part of this inaugural F-22 training deployment will train with our joint partners and our NATO allies across Europe as part of our continued effort to assure our allies and demonstrate our commitments to security and stability of Europe,” she added.
The Washington Post notes that the announcement to deploy the F-22 fighter jets comes less than a week after the Air Force declared that it was planning to send an additional dozen A-10 Thunderbolts to Europe in support of a scheduled training exercise there.
According to the article, “The F-22’s primary role is for air-to-air combat against other fighters, while the A-10’s job is mainly for close air support for troops on the ground.”
Maj. James Brindle, a spokesman for the Pentagon, indicated that “the F-22 deployment will be for a relatively short amount of time and will not be supporting the current air policing efforts in the region,” The Post reports.
Secretary James emphasized that the primary goal of the U.S. air power deployments to Europe is to assist in training America’s European allies.
“The F-22 deploying to Europe is just a continuation of deploying it everywhere we can to train with our partners,” the Air Force secretary told reporters. “We’re going to be doing a training deployment, we’ll operate with a number of different air forces.”
“We’ll get the F-22 into facilities that we would potentially use in a conflict in Europe, things like the bases where we do aviation attachments, to places where we do air policing mission,” she continued.
The F-22’s training deployment to Europe would allow the U.S. Air Force to train side-by-side with its NATO counterparts in Europe, testing the advanced ability of the jets to communicate and fight alongside the Eurofighter and other aircrafts, explained Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.
Reuters notes, “The first deployment of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-22 to Europe outside air shows is seen as a move to address growing concerns among NATO allies about Russian military aggression.”
The F-22 warplane, which formally entered the service in December 2005, is a single-seat, twin engine, all weather stealth tactical fighter jet, designed by Lockheed and Boeing Co as an air superiority fighter.
Nevertheless, the jets can be used for ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence.