USAF F-22 fighters landed at the 32nd Air Base in Łask. Deployment of these jets in Mid-Eastern Europe may be interpreted as a signal for Russia, especially in the light of the Ukrainian crisis and potential threat for the NATO member states posed by Russia.
The F-22 fighters are deployed in Europe for the first time, and it is also the first time when they are stationed in Mid-Eastern Europe, where the NATO presence – even though pronounced, in the light of the Ukrainian crisis – is limited, due to the lack of permanent bases or large military units.
Deployment of the Raptors in Europe constitutes a signal for Moscow. This means that even though the US is involved in other regions (Middle East, Asia and Pacific), Washington is still willing to mark its presence in Europe, in order to support its allies, also in the Mid-Eastern Europe.
The F-22 jets’ presence shows that the US is willing to have a wide array of assets in Europe, including the 5-generation fighters which, so far, were not involved in any training activities in Europe. Earlier on, the F-22 fighters were involved in exercises in Japan, South Korea and in combat deployment in the Middle East.
Deployment of the Raptor jets hence constitutes a “breakthrough”, when it comes to the US-presence in Europe. At the same time, the deployment would make it possible to carry out a series of exercises, involving joint cooperation with the F-22 fighters.
This is quite important, since the Americans only have 183 jets of this type at their disposal (the production has been finalized, inter alia, due to the budgetary limitations). The number of the latest fighters is considered to be insufficient, particularly in a situation when spectrum of the threats is wide. Thus, cooperation with the allies is even more important.
The USAF have developed a “Rapid Raptor Package” concept which assumes that 4 F-22 jets, along with a C-17 Globemaster III airlifter (carrying the equipment and the auxiliary personnel) are deployed in a short period of time – even 24 hours. According to Defense News, this concept makes it possible to realize rapid deployments of the 5th generation fighters.
Raptors are the sole 5th generation jets that have gained the Full Operational Capability status. The F-22 is fitted with an advanced AESA radar, complemented with an electronic warfare suite. At the same time they have a very high degree of manoeuvrability, and they are in possession of the supercruise capability. Due to their “silent” data-link, the jets face difficulties in case of operations conducted together with other units.
The current rotation of Aviation Detachment which is going to stay in Łask until the end of September involves the F-16 jets coming from Spangdahlem, where the F-22 jets were originally deployed. According to the Polish General Command of the Armed Forces, Łask is also going to accommodate the F-16 fighters hailing from the 115th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard, coming from Wisconsin.