US to deploy F-22 Raptor jets in Europe
The deployment, slated to occur “very soon,” was described as part of the “European Reassurance Initiative,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing on Monday. She added that it was “to support combatant commander requirements” in the region.
James said Russia’s “military activity” in Ukraine continued to be of great concern to the US and its European allies, and that the deployment of the F-22s was “certainly on the strong side of the coin.” She also quoted Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said last week, “Our approach to Russia needs to be strong and it needs to be balanced.”
James told reporters that, for operational security reasons, “we cannot share with you the exact dates or locations of this deployment.”
The F-22 stealth fighter is a fifth generation aircraft capable of dropping precision bombs on targets from up to 15 miles away.
A reporter asked if the announcement was a message the Air Force was delivering to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
General Mark Welsh said the deployment to Europe was “just a continuation of deploying the F-22s everywhere we can to train with our partners,” and that it “was primarily for a major exercise, training with our European partners.” However, he added that the deployment would put F-22s “into facilities that we would potentially use in a conflict in Europe.”
The F-22 fighter’s deployment in Europe was first floated in June, when Secretary James listed Russia as the “biggest threat on my mind” when asked about the greatest threat faced by the US Air Force by a reporter at a Paris Air Show.
In February and March, the Air Force sent two units of A-10 and F-15C jets to Europe along with about 300 airmen to spend six months flying missions across the continent, according to airforcetimes.com. The US currently has 65,000 active-duty service members stationed in Europe, with the majority made up of airmen and soldiers.
News of the deployment comes as the US military is engaged with 11 NATO member states in a month-long war game. About 5,000 soldiers are participating in simultaneous airborne operations. One of the most anticipated drills will take place on August 26, when NATO planes will drop more than 1,000 paratroopers in the Hohenfels training area in Germany.
In Moscow, a member of the Russian Duma’s defense committee, Franz Klintsevich, said the Russian military is “closely monitoring” the situation and is ready to react in the case of any aggression. He said Moscow has been taking note of NATO’s buildup up of forces, as well as all of the West’s rhetoric concerning “Russian aggression.”
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, meanwhile, told The National Interest in an interview last week that “breaking Russia has become an objective [for US officials]; the long-range purpose should be to integrate it.”
“If we treat Russia seriously as a great power, we need at an early stage to determine whether their concerns can be reconciled with our necessities,” he said.
Kissinger laid blame for sparking the Ukrainian conflict at the door of the EU, which he said had proposed a trade deal in 2013 without considering how it would alienate Moscow and divide the Ukrainian people.