The United States will soon deploy F-22 fighter jets to Europe to show “commitment to the security and stability” of NATO allies concerned about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, a Pentagon official says.
The deployment will occur “very soon” as part of the “European Reassurance Initiative,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a Pentagon briefing on Monday.
James did not provide specifics about where or when the single-seat jets would be deployed, but said they will be sent “to support combatant commander requirements” in the region.
“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” she said. “For the Air Force, an F-22 deployment is certainly on the strong side of the coin.”
Washington accuses Russia of provoking unrest in eastern Ukraine. It also has repeatedly called on Moscow to help implement the terms of a shaky ceasefire deal that was agreed upon by both sides in Minsk in February.
Since the ceasefire agreement, both sides have constantly accused one another of violating the truce.
James did not mention how many planes the US Air Force would dispatch, but noted that the deployment comes at the request of commanders in the region.
F-22 pilots will also train with NATO partners to learn how to use the warplanes which are designed for air-to-air combat as well as ground attacks.
The US Air Force has about 180 F-22s, which are a fifth generation aircraft capable of dropping precision bombs on targets from up to 15 miles away.