F-22s Headed to Europe

F-22s will make their inaugural deployment to Europe “very soon,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced at a Pentagon press conference Monday. The deployment is being made “to support combatant commander requirements under the European Reassurance Initiative,” she said, declining to identify specific numbers or dates due to operational security. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, sitting beside James, later explained that the F-22 move is “just a continuation of deploying [the F-22] everywhere we can to train with our partners.” He said the Raptor would participate in “a major exercise” and in a number of other roles “across Europe,” such as aviation detachments, air policing, and trying out host facilities “that we would potentially use in a conflict in Europe.” The Air Force has an aviation detachment in Poland and air policing missions have usually been flown out of the Baltic states, such as Latvia and Estonia. Welsh also said both the US and its NATO partners need to exercise the F-22s with European jets, like the Typhoon, in “advanced scenarios.” The deployment “is a natural evolution of bringing our best air-to-air capability in to train” with long-term partners, he said. James acknowledged the deployment is being made in the context of the “great concern” posed by Russian adventurism in eastern Europe, and is partly to let F-22 pilots “get more experience in European terrain.”