For the First Time, US Deploying F-22 Stealth Fighter Jets to Europe

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft, Jan. 5, 2013From Deborah Lee James and Mark Welsh, Department of Defense.  Secretary James:  Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies. And I think Secretary of Defense Carter put it quite well last week when he said that our approach to Russia needs to be strong and it needs to be balanced.

Now, rotational forces and training exercises help us maintain our strong and balanced approach, and we will certainly be continuing these in the future. 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.

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. But for operational security reasons, we cannot share with you the exact dates or the locations of this deployment….

General Welsh:  I would tell you the F-22 deploying to Europe is just a continuation of deploying it everywhere we can to train with our partners. 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 missions. They’ll train with some of our European partners. They’re there primarily for an exercise, training with our European partners.

So this is a natural evolution in bringing our best air-to-air capability in to train with partners who have been long and trusted ones….

We have allies in Europe who have advanced capabilities for — who — to the Eurofighter as just an example. We have aircraft with very advanced capabilities, and we need, and they would like for us to be able to interoperate in multiple-type scenarios. And so being able to train side-by-side with them and do that kind of training is really, really important to us, and that’s what this is for.

Excerpts from press briefing by Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force and General Mark A. Welsh III, Air Force Chief of Staff, August 24, 2015.

From Aaron Mehta, Defense News:  Although it went operational in 2005, the F-22 saw its first combat operations last fall when it was used in the opening night of anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Since then, it has become a regular part of strike packages into Syria.

The Raptor is designed primarily as an air-to-air fighter. Depending on load out, the jet can carry six AIM-120 advanced, medium-range, air-to-air missiles or two AIM-120s and two GBU-32 joint direct attack munitions for air-to-ground strikes. It also carries an internal 20mm gun and two AIM-9 Sidewinders in internal weapons bays.

From Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Washington Post:  The announcement to send the additional fighter comes less than week after the Air Force announced that it would be sending an additional dozen A-10 Thunderbolts to Europe in support of a training exercise scheduled there.

The F-22 and A-10 are markedly different aircraft. 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.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, according to Pentagon Spokesman Maj. James Brindle.

Russian incursions into European airspace has skyrocketed since the conflict in Ukraine started last year, with NATO reporting more than 150 Russian intrusions in 2014, more than four times the amount in 2013.

Image: U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft, Jan. 5, 2013 (photo: Sgt. Dana Rosso/U.S. Air Force)