More F-35s are headed to Europe – There are worse times to head to Germany than in early May, but the pilots and ground crews of the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing won’t likely have time to take in the sights. Eight F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighters from the ANG unit recently arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base to continue NATO’s enhanced air policing mission along the eastern flank.
As part of NATO’s plan to bolster its collective defense posture, the Vermont ANG team will take over the mission for Hill Air Force Base’s 388th FW, which has been executing the international alliance’s air policing mission since their arrival Feb. 16.
The U.S. European Command regularly rotates units to maintain readiness across the force, as well as to display the United States Air Force’s ability to integrate seamlessly between active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard components.
Strong Message to Russia
The deployment of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft also sends a strong message to Russia, as the fifth-generation aircraft provide unprecedented communication capabilities, command and control, and lethality for the combined and joint force. Those capabilities afford NATO and U.S. leaders the flexibility to project power and assert air dominance in highly contested environments.
Over the past two and a half months, F-35 aircraft, aircrew and support personnel have been forward-deployed to Baltic Sea and Black Sea regions to enhance NATO security and stability while supporting NATO’s enhanced air policing. The continuation of the F-35 mission also provides ANG Airmen the opportunity to continue the regular touch points and routine training integration with U.S. allies and partners throughout Europe.
The fifth-generation aircraft, originally from Hill Air Force Base (AFB), Utah, supported NATO’s Enhanced Air Policing mission from forward operating locations at Estonia’s Amari Air Base, Lithuania’s Siauliai Air Base, and Romania’s Fetesti Air Base beginning in February. The aircraft were forward-deployed just following Russia’s unprovoked and unwarranted invasion of Ukraine.
“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 earlier this month.
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.
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.
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 Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.