KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Air National Guard F-15Cs and airmen are headed to Europe to augment U.S. forces on the Continent, part of ongoing efforts to boost peace and stability in the region while deterring Russian aggression in eastern Europe.
Twelve F-15C Eagles and about 350 airmen and support equipment were to begin deploying Friday from their home stations, said Capt. Lauren Ott, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa. The aircraft and airmen are from the 131st Fighter Squadron at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass., and the 194th Fighter Squadron at Fresno Air National Guard Base, Calif.
They are deploying as a Theater Security Package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, with the airmen expected to remain in Europe for about six months.
Upon arrival in Europe, the aircraft and airmen will head to separate locations: One group will support the NATO air surveillance mission in Iceland, while the other will conduct flying training at Leeuwarden Air Base, Netherlands.
The mission in Iceland marks the first time that an Air National Guard unit will fly air surveillance in Iceland for NATO, Ott said.
NATO's air mission in Iceland dates to 2008, following the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country, which doesn't have its own military. NATO provides a periodic peacetime air defense presence to meet Iceland's needs.
While at Leeuwarden, the F-15s will participate in Exercise Frisian Flag, an international exercise designed to bring fighter aircraft from several countries together to practice coordinating operations, planning and execution, USAFE said.
During the deployment, the F-15s will also conduct training in eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania.
The first Theater Security Package for Operation Atlantic Resolve -- the U.S. effort to show its commitment to NATO and deter Russian aggression since Russia's military intervention in Ukraine two years ago -- deployed to Europe in February 2014. The rotational forces are intended to augment existing Air Force capabilities in Europe.