More stealthy F-22 Raptors, the most advanced fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force inventory, have arrived in Europe to participate in NATO training exercises and deter threats from Russia, U.S. European Command said Monday.
The initial announcement did not say how many F-22s and supporting airmen landed at Royal Air Force base Lakenheath in Britain, but said that the stealthy fifth-generation fighters would be conducting training exercises until next month to enhance commitments to the alliance and to "deter any actions that destabilize regional security."
The F-22s from the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida will deploy from Lakenheath to other NATO bases in Europe during the training period, the command said.
The deployment marked the second time that F-22s have conducted training exercises in Europe. Last August, the Air Force sent four F-22s to Europe for the first time on a temporary deployment for exercises with allies.
The deployment of the F-22s was part of the White House's European Reassurance Initiative, which was intended to provide "a persistent U.S. air, land, and sea presence in the region, especially in Central and Eastern Europe" for NATO allies "deeply concerned by Russia's occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and other provocative actions in Ukraine."
The White House has proposed quadrupling funding for the initiative from the current $1 billion to $4 billion in the annual defense authorization bill, which sets funding targets and policy goals for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
The deployment of the F-22s followed on the Air Force action last week in sending 12 F-15 Eagle fighters to Iceland and the Netherlands as part of a Theater Security Package in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, the effort to show continuing U.S. commitment to NATO's collective security.
About 250 airmen and support equipment deployed with the F-15s from the 131st Fighter Squadron, Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts and the 194th Fighter Squadron at Fresno Air National Guard Base in California, European Command said.
The F-15s "will conduct training alongside our NATO allies and partners to strengthen interoperability and to demonstrate U.S. commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous," the command said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.