The United States is set to send Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 fighter jets to Europe to help NATO allies counter Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James said Monday. The latest deployment is reportedly in line with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter's recent call for a strong and balanced approach toward Russia.
“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” James said at a news conference at the Pentagon, according to Reuters, adding: “For the air force an F-22 deployment is certainly on the strong side of the coin.”
The deployment is being seen as a contributor to tackle Russian military aggression in eastern Ukraine. However, it is not clear how many planes will be sent to Europe or when the deployment will take place. The F-22 fighter jets have also been used in Washington’s strikes against the Islamic State group.
General Mark Welsh James, the air force chief of staff, reportedly said that the jets' inaugural training deployment would help the U.S. forces to train with NATO partners in Europe and also test the F-22’s ability to fight with the Eurofighter and other advanced planes. The deployment is also expected to give the pilots more experience in handling the jets -- which have been previously used in Japan and South Korea -- in the European terrain.
The deployment would take place under the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), created last June by U.S. President Barack Obama to enhance NATO’s defenses amid the crisis in Ukraine, according to the Daily Express.
The F-22 is a twin-engine single-seat jet that can fly at speeds of up to 1,500 miles an hour with a range of almost 2,000 miles, the Daily Express reported. The plane costs $150 million and came into service in 2005.