As Russia threatens “tougher action” against the U.S. if it continues arming Ukraine, six U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters have arrived in England on their way to Poland. This deployment is unprecedented for the world’s most capable air-to-air fighter. F-22s have visited Poland before, but it was only two of them on what was more of a quick goodwill and reassurance mission than a deployment.
That mission “will provide a near seamless shield from the Baltic to Black Seas, ensuring NATO Allies are better able to safeguard and protect Alliance territory, populations and forces from air and missile threat,” the Air Force said in its release.
It’s part of an increased effort by the U.S. and its NATO partners to boost the aerial presence in the region, something that began to tick up long before Russia invaded Ukraine in a failed effort to dissuade Vladimir Putin from taking action and to bolster NATO’s eastern flank if he did. But since then, 120 jets have been placed on high alert, retired Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, then-commander of U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in May.
Poland is strategically located, sharing long borders with Belarus and Ukraine. Its airspace is now defended by Poland’s own F-16s and MiG-29s, assisted by U.S. fighters, including F-35As flying from Spangdahlem in Germany. E-3 AWACS aircraft have also been a constant fixture in the region to support NATO fighter flights near the Ukraine and Belarus borders, as are KC-135 tankers to support these operations.
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