The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptors assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron have been forward deployed to the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Ask, Poland, the US Air Force in Europe said in a statement.
The latest development marks the F-22’s first deployment to Europe since the start of the Russian invasion. This fifth-generation fighter jet supports NATO’s ‘air shielding’ mission.
According to reports, six Raptors, out of a total of 12, have already arrived at the Ask air force base in central Poland. The mission will be focused on protecting the airspace along NATO’s Eastern borders and thwarting any potential Russian aggression.
A few days ago, the F-22s landed at RAF Lakenheath in the UK while en route to Poland, as reported by EurAsian Times.
The 158th Fighter Wing of the Vermont Air National Guard, which has been employing its F-35 Lightning II fleet to carry out NATO’s air policing mission, will be replaced by the F-22s of the 90th Fighter Squadron, based in Alaska.
The three-month rotational F-35 Lightning II deployment began on May 2 and ended on August 3 at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, after which the aircraft was flown back to Vermont.
In terms of its integration with NATO’s air shielding mission, the Air Force anticipates a smooth transition from the F-35 force of the 158th Fighter Wing to the F-22s of the 90th Fighter Squadron.
“The NATO Air Shielding mission integrates Allied Air and Surface Based Air and Missile Defense units into the NATO Integrated Air and Missile Defense system under NATO Command and Control,” the USAF said in a press release.
“It will provide a near seamless shield from the Baltic to Black Seas, ensuring NATO Allies are better able to safeguard and protect Alliance territory, populations and forces from air and missile threat,” the USAF added.
The Raptor is a crucial part of the global strike task force and is designed to project air dominance rapidly and at great distances to defeat threats. First-kill opportunity against threats is provided by a combination of sensor capacity, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons.
The F-22 has an advanced sensor suite that enables the pilot to track, recognize, shoot, and eliminate air-to-air threats before they are discovered. It is a highly strategic platform to support NATO Air Shielding because “it cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.”
F-35, F-22 To Strengthen NATO’s Defenses
The F-22 Raptors deployment is the latest in a series of the US and its allies’ declarations to create “Air Shielding” plans on the Eastern front to counter Russian threats.
The US is vigorously promoting the use of fifth-generation fighter aircraft, predominantly the F-35 fighter jet, as part of a plan to intensify, strengthen, and broaden efforts to deter Russia.
In addition to sending two more squadrons of US F-35s to the Royal Air Force’s Lakenheath base in the United Kingdom, President Biden also recently announced the establishment of a new Army headquarters in Poland.
The Pentagon stated that the fifth-generation fighters “will add to the air support for NATO forces throughout Europe” following Biden’s announcement at the NATO Summit in Madrid.
When it comes to strengthening deterrence against Russian aggression, the increasing number of F-35s in the US fleet and across Europe is an essential stepping stone for the military alliance.
As a result, more networked F-35s will be deployed across Europe, bolstering the Eastern Flank. Furthermore, the F-22 fighter jet’s stellar support will boost NATO’s overall airpower.
Russian aircraft have a long record of flying over eastern and northern Europe regions, frequently causing NATO fighter jets to scramble to intercept and accompany the aircraft. The military alliance has long conducted “air policing” operations along the eastern front to patrol the volatile region.
NATO will strengthen its air defense in Eastern Europe. A NATO official recently explained: “NATO air shielding is an increased air and missile defense posture along the alliance’s eastern flank, implemented in the wake of Russia’s war on Ukraine.”
The alliance is now looking to bring together a broad array of allied air and missile defense options under the general command of NATO officials.
A NATO spokesperson noted: “It will provide a near-seamless shield from the Baltic to the Black Sea, ensuring NATO allies are better able to safeguard and protect alliance territory, populations and forces.”
The US and its allies try to brace their military power against Russia. Even though the alliance calls these moves purely defensive, they are forging a new defense chain aimed at Moscow.