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Message to Russia: More F-35 Stealth Fighters Are Headed to Europe

F-35. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
F-35 shot from KC-135 tanker.

More F-35 Fighters Are Headed to Europe – Members of the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing were deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on Monday to continue NATO’s enhanced air policing mission along the eastern flank. The unit arrived at the base near the Luxembourg border with eight Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft, which will be used as part of the military alliance’s plan to bolster its collective defense posture.

The Vermont Air National Guard (ANG) team will take over the mission for Hill Air Force Base’s 388th Fighter Wing, which has been executing the coalition’s air policing mission since its arrival on February 16. The 158th Fighter Wing’s jets are normally stationed at a base in South Burlington – and at least a “couple hundred” service members, including pilots and members of the ground crew,” have now arrived in Germany.

The U.S. European Command regularly rotates units to maintain readiness across the force, while it also serves to display the United States Air Force’s ability to integrate seamlessly between Active Duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard components.

An Increased Presence in Europe

Over the past two and a half months, F-35 aircraft, aircrew and support personnel have forward-deployed to Baltic Sea and Black Sea regions to enhance NATO security and stability while supporting NATO’s enhanced air policing.

The fifth-generation aircraft, originally from Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah, supported NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission for a period of time from forward operating locations at Estonia’s Amari Air Base, Lithuania’s Siauliai Air Base, and Romania’s Fetesti Air Base. The aircraft were forward-deployed just following Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine.

“We are facing a dynamic environment, and the deployment of F-35s to NATO’s eastern flank enhances our defensive posture and amplifies the Alliance’s interoperability,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Force in Europe – Air Forces Africa commander.

Additional U.S. deployment has included eight F-15Es from the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing from Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, to Lask, Poland, according to Air Force public affairs in Europe. The Royal Air Force also deployed six KC-135 Stratotankers from the 100th Aerial Refueling Wing at Mildenhall, U.K., to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Many of those aircraft could soon begin to return to their home bases in the coming weeks.

Why the F-35 Matters?

“Fifth-generation aircraft provide unprecedented communication capabilities, command and control, and lethality for the combined and joint force. These capabilities afford NATO and U.S. leaders the flexibility to project power and assert air dominance in highly contested environments,” United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa announced via a release.

The continuation of the F-35 mission also provides Air National Guard Airmen the opportunity to continue the regular touchpoints and routine training integration with U.S. allies and partners throughout Europe.


F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in What Is Called Beast Mode. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.


F-35 Rollout in Denmark. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is currently operated by multiple NATO partners including the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark and Canada. Poland, Belgium and Germany will also soon be operating the highly-capable fifth-generation stealth aircraft, while non-NATO partners including Switzerland and Finland recently announced plans to acquire the aircraft.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.