The U.S. Air Force could be adding a squadron of F-22s to its rotations in the Baltics and Eastern Europe in response to recent strained relations with Russia.
As reported in various media outlets, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with its military involvement in eastern Ukraine, has some of Russia’s neighbors on edge.
Air Force Secretary Deborah James told reporters during a stop at the Paris Air Show that Russia is “the biggest threat” on her mind, according to an article in Stars and Stripes. “That’s a big part of why I am here in Europe to hold these discussions,” said James.
But one analyst warns Russia will likely retaliate against the Pentagon’s planned deployment of its F-22 Raptor fighters in Europe. Vladimir Batyuk, from the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, says the possible deployment will inevitably provoke confrontation between Russia and NATO.
Batyuk predicted that this will mean an additional buildup of Russian troops and arms on its western border with Europe, which will, in turn, result in “not only political but also military confrontation between Russia and NATO,” according to an article in Sputnik News.
Entered into service in 2005, the stealthy F-22 is considered the Air Force’s top fighter, designed to ensure air dominance. The military started using it in combat in September, when it took part in airstrikes over Syria as part of the campaign against the Islamic State group.
The Air Force has already increased its rotations through Europe with its A-10s and F-15Cs among the rotating fighters.