The U.S. Air Force will soon dispatch its most advanced fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, to Europe in a show of solidarity with allies that have concerns about Russian actions in Ukraine, Air Force leaders said Monday.
“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James, the service’s top civilian, said at a briefing. “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.”
James said security concerns prevented her from disclosing exactly when and where the aircraft would deploy, but Gen. Mark Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, gave some clues.
“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,” Welsh said.
The stealthy F-22s, which Welch called the service’s “best air-to-air capability,” became operational in 2005 but only saw their first combat in attacks on ISIS positions in Syria late last year. Besides attacking other aircraft, they can be configured to bomb ground targets.
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