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Why U.S. F-35 Stealth Fighters Are Training in Greece

F-35 Air Force
A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 495th Fighter Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands for the first time at Souda Air Base, Greece, July 7, 2022. The fifth-generation aircraft will be participating in exercise Poseidon’s Rage, in an effort to bolster U.S.-Hellenic readiness and interoperability. (U.S. Air Force Photo By Tech. Sgt. Rachel Maxwell)

F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jets have made another appearance, but this time with a geopolitical flavor.

Ten F-35A Lightning II fighter jets are currently in Greece, training with the Hellenic Air Force, which is set to be the next buyer of the 5th generation stealth aircraft.

Poseidon’s Rage 22 Drills

The “menu” includes familiarization drills, basic defensive formation drills, air-to-air combat, low-level flying, close air support in coordination with ground Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), and anti-ship strikes.

On the Greek side, aircraft and units from the Hellenic Air Force, Hellenic Navy, and Hellenic Army (special operations teams that coordinate airstrikes and close air support) are participating in the exercise.

On the American side, 10 F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets and 14 F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets from the 494th Fighter Squadron are participating in Poseidon’s Rage 22.

The exercise is taking place all over Greece but the aircraft are based on Souda Air Base, in the island of Crete.

This is the second iteration of Exercise Poseidon’s Rage but the first one to feature the F-35 Lightning II. Moreover, this iteration is the first time the U.S. Air Force deploys 4th and 5th generation fighter squadrons in Europe at the same forward operating location. As such, the exercise is also designed to test the U.S. Air Force’s capability to conduct large-scale force employment in Europe.

“F-15E Strike Eagles and F-35A Lightning II aircraft from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, together with F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Hellenic Air Force’s 115 Combat Wing, will participate in the exercise. This annual multinational training event is designed to bolster readiness and interoperability between the United States Air Force and HAF, by demonstrating localized air superiority through the incorporation of both live and inert munitions,” the U.S. Air Force stated in a press release.

Besides the interoperability benefits of Poseidon’s Rage 22, the exercise had some geopolitical “background.” Greece is set to become the next nation to purchase the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Spain two weeks ago, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis revealed that Greece had formally expressed its intention to purchase one squadron (24 aircraft) of F-35A Lighting II stealth fighter jets with the option to upgrade that future order to two squadrons (48) of stealth fighter jets. The Greek military has already sent a Letter of Request to the Pentagon to formally start the process.

F-35 Stealth Fighter Jets Around the World 

Lately, F-35 Lighting II stealth fighter jets are popping up all around the world.

Recently, almost 30 F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets—both the “A” conventional version and the “B” Short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL)—took part in a large-scale capabilities demonstration drill in Japan, showcasing their ability to deploy quickly in a forward operating location under the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept and also sending a deterrence message to an increasingly truculent China.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.