Bringing the F-35 Lightning II to Europe is “obviously something that I’m interested in,” Gen. Roger A. Brady, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, said March 18. But there are currently no firm plans for when or where the advanced fighter will arrive at USAF bases there. For the F-35, the Air Force will “look at where we have bases now” that are flying legacy fighters, Brady said during an interview (see above and below). There are several options. RAF Lakenheath, Britain, has F-15s; Spangdahlem AB, Germany, flies A-10s and F-16s; and Aviano AB, Italy, also hosts F-16s. There are no F-22s planned for Europe under the Pentagon-mandated buy of 183 Raptors, eliminating a direct replacement for USAFE’s F-15s. Asked when the F-35s are needed at USAFE, Brady joked that “now would be a good date,” but elaborated that he would like them brought in around the same time as the international partners buy the F-35. That would allow the Air Force to develop procedures and training routines in conjunction with its European allies, he said. Six of the nine F-35 partner nations are European NATO members.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.