UPDATED 15 April | The US Department of Defense on Friday announced it is sending a small number of US Air Force F-35s to Europe ‘as part of a long-planned training deployment’. The jets are to arrive this weekend and will most likely head to Lakenheath airbase in the UK, with Spangdahlem airbase in Germany as a secondary option.
Update 15 april | Six F-35s arrived at Lakenheath in the UK
at 1:45 pm local time, supported by two KC-135 tankers. Video of their arrival is below.
The F-35s – indications are eight jets are involved – will be part of the US Air Force’s 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. In August 2016, the wing was the first to reach Initial Operational Capability (IOC) on the new jet. A deployment to Europe was mentioned on several occasions before, but the Pentagon never said when this would actually happen.
An informative infographic released on Wednesday 6 January by US Air Force in Europe (USAFE) gives more details about the three Theater Security Packages that deployed from the US to Europe in 2015. Most impressive number: 26 nations saw ‘support’ from those packages.
The Pentagon announced the first Theater Security Package (TSP) to Europe early last year as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. The move of sending fighter aircraft to Europe was a clear reponse to Russia’s attitude over the Baltics and Ukraine in particular.
The first TSP consisted of twelve A-10C Thunderbolts from Davis Monthan Air Force Base and arrive at Spangdahlem airbase in Germany on 13 February. See Airheadsfly.com’s report on their arrival here. The attack aircraft and their crews visited numerous European countries during their six month stay.
The two Lockheed Martin F-22s arrived at Ämari airbase in the morning and flew back to Spangdahlem in Germany later in the day. On Monday, two Raptors paid a similar quick visit to Łask airbase in Poland.
The advanced stealth fighters arrived in Germany on 28 August, flying directly from their homebase in Tyndall, Florida. They are expected to leave Europe again mid-September. In other US military movements, eight US Air National Guard F-16s are due to arrive on Friday in Poland for exercises.
UPDATE 11 September | The muscle to show Russia the United States means business has arrived. The meanest, leanest, winged US military asset has landed on Spangdahlem Airbase in Western Germany early in the evening of 28 August 2015. It marked the first deployment for the Raptor Pack as Rapid Reaction Force in Europe. Airheadsfly.com caught them on the spot.
UPDATE The Raptors headed home again on 11 September, arriving at RAF Mildenhall on their way back
Four Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors flew from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, across the Atlantic to give a clear signal that Washington is committed to the protection of its European NATO allies, although four birds don’t make a summer. Sixty airmen accompany the temporary deployment that was supported by a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifter with some necessary support equipment. The supporting tanker aircraft headed for Mildenhall airbase in the UK.
A remark at the Pentagon last week pointed to the Raptors being deployed to Europe. Their exact destination and arrival remained unknown – or better; untold – until just one day prior to their actual arrival at Spangdahlem.
The F-22 is the world’s most advanced fighter jet currently in operational service. Costing more than 150 million dollar a piece, the US Air Force received the last of 187 ordered Raptors in 2012. The aircraft has three internal weapon bays, making it hard to detect by enemy radar as long as it keeps the weapon bays shut. The main bay can accommodate six launchers for beyond-visual-range missiles and two side bays for short-range missiles.
Four launchers can be replace with racks for up to 1,000 lb (450kg) bombs or Joint Direct Attack Munition and Small-Diamater Bombs, a secondary attack option that the Raptors first fielded in a real war situation over Syria in 2014.
However, for this Rapid Reaction kind of deployment to Germany, military radars – including Russian ones if within range – must have been able to track the F-22s all the way like they were flying X-Mas Trees. The landing birds of prey were carrying external fuel tanks that likely mess up their stealthy features completely – apart from looking aesthetically weird. But the extra wing tanks do make long-distance flights much more comfortable, when range and as few in-flight refuelling moments as possible are something to consider too.
In what can be considered a fact after a remark by US air force secretary Deborah James in the Pentagon, US F-22 Raptor fighter jets are preparing to deploy to Europe. The move is aimed at showing Russia that the US is concerned about Moscow’s increased military activities over the last few years, especially those in Ukraine. The arrivel is planned for Friday 28 August, flying directly from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
No time, date or specific destination were mentioned for the F-22, the aircraft that saw its combat debut only last year during the start of operations against IS over Syria. The state-of the-art Raptor did deploy to Japan a few times already as a show of force to North Korea.
If the F-22s indeed fly to Europe, likely hosts are RAF Lakenheath in the UK or Spangdahlem airbase in Germany. The latter hosted a batch of US Air Force A-10 attack aircraft earlier this year.