European Raptors

Last year’s “Rapid Raptor” deployment of four F-22s to Europe was the “logical first step” on a “journey” that may lead to deploying F-22s on the continent, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa chief Gen. Frank Gorenc told defense writers Tuesday. The deployment helped define the “logistics that have to be accommodated” with the F-22 and the exercise was “the beginning of the process of introducing fifth generation capability to the theater.” Whether the move was “strategic or not,” Gorenc said he’d leave to others to puzzle out, but it was “a good first step even though it was with a small footprint.” He declined to say whether there are plans to permanently base F-22s in USAFE’s theater of operations, but suggested there will be more and larger rotational deployments. The fact that F-22s, which are in extremely high demand, were apportioned to Europe, even in such small numbers, indicates the priority of the mission, he said. Gorenc said he could see no reason why the deployment of F-22s would be provocative or destabilizing. “All I can say is, wanting to defend your sovereign airspace couldn’t be more de-escalatory” and making sure that NATO airspace isn’t violated is “job one.”