- The US Air Force is sending six F-22 Raptors to support NATO’s “air shielding” mission in Poland.
- The F-22s will bolster NATO’s eastern flank amid Russian aggression in Ukraine.
- The Air Force says the Raptor is unmatched by “any known or projected” aircraft.
The US Air Force is sending F-22 Raptor fighter jets to Lask, Poland to support NATO’s “air shielding” mission and bolster deterrence against potential Russian threats.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter jets of the 90th Fighter Squadron, which just arrived at RAF Lakenheath, England from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, will soon make their way to the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Lask, Poland, according to a statement from US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
NATO’s air shielding mission brings additional air and missile-defense capabilities beyond what was deployed prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February to NATO’s eastern borders. The Air Force said the air shielding provides a shield “from the Baltic to the Black seas.”
German Brig. Gen. Christoph Pliet, the deputy chief of staff operations at the NATO Allied Air Command headquarters, has said the aim of the mission is to “deter and shield against any possible Russian aggression,” Stars and Stripes reported previously.
The F-22 Raptor is considered the first fifth-generation fighter. The aircraft can conduct both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions and, according to the Air Force, “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.”
The F-22 has a a 20 mm cannon and can be armed with six AIM-120 radar-guided and two AIM-9 infrared air-air missiles for air-to-air combat. The fighter can also be configured for air-to-ground combat with two 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions.
The plan to boost NATO’s defenses in Europe came out of a summit in Madrid earlier this summer where leaders developed a new strategy for NATO’s “deterrence by reinforcement” model. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the new strategy is “the biggest overhaul [of] our collective defence since the end of the Cold War.”
Throughout the war in Ukraine, Russia has targeted Ukrainian assets alarmingly close the the Polish border, including firing more than 30 rockets at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv just 15 miles from Poland.