F-35s to participate in NATO exercises near Russian border

A Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II prepares for aerial refueling. F-35s will be participating in Eastern European NATO exercises. (DoD)

The United States Air Force will be sending a new shape over Eastern European skies soon, as the silhouette of the new F-35A will soon be spotted conducting training exercises in Estonia.

Only declared “combat ready” in recent memory, the Utah-based F-35s from Hill Air Force Base are making their way across Europe, having touched down in the UK recently after a transatlantic flight.

The deployment of F-35s is reportedly to build experience between pilots and joint forces, and is reportedly unrelated to any current events.

“This is an incredible opportunity for USAFE Airmen and our NATO allies to host this first overseas training deployment of the F-35A aircraft,” General Tod D. Wolters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe/Air Forces Africa commander, said in a DoD statement. “As we and our joint F-35 partners bring this aircraft into our inventories, it’s important that we train together to integrate into a seamless team capable of defending the sovereignty of allied nations.”

Wolters went on to say that the F-35s will be based out of the UK for the duration of exercises, which will take place along several spots of the near 200-mile border between Estonia and Russia.

“RAF Lakenheath will be the first overseas beddown location for the F-35A, this deployment allows our pilots and maintainers to learn more about the European operating environment and will improve our interoperability with partners in the region” Wolters said.

According to the US Air Force, “As part of the training deployment, the aircraft will forward deploy to NATO nations to maximize training opportunities, build partnerships with allied air forces and gain a broad familiarity of Europe’s diverse operating conditions. The introduction of the premier fifth-generation fighter to the European area of responsibility brings with it state-of-the-arts sensors, interoperability, and a broad array of advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions that will help maintain the fundamental sovereignty rights of all nations.”

F-35s will also head to Romania, which along with Estonia have become wary of Russia’s recent history of aggressive annexation of former Soviet territories like Crimea.




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