In light of Russia’s recent aggressive action in Europe, the commander of US Air Forces Europe is calling for a permanent F-22 Raptor base in the region.
The Air Force last month deployed four F-22s to Europe for the first time ever as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, a Pentagon effort to soothe anxiety among European allies facing a resurgent Russia.
The move may be the first step in establishing a permanent base for the fifth-generation fighter jet, Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, indicated Wednesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.
The recent deployment proved the F-22’s capabilities in the European theater, and reassured our allies in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria, Gorenc said.
“The move to begin introducing the F-22 to the European theater, that decision was made a long time ago in our effort to try and send the message, assures our allies,” Gorenc said. “I don’t know how well it deterred President Putin; however, it’s done a lot to assure our partners.”
The Air Force was able to rapidly deploy the jets first to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, from there to Poland, and then finally to Estonia, Gorenc said. The deployment proved that infrastructure exists in the region to support the aircraft, he emphasized.
During the deployment, the four F-22s and 60 airmen from the 95th Fighter Squadron trained with US and allied forces, giving the planes a chance to conduct combat air training with different US and European jets. The training was designed to prove that fifth-generation fighter jets can successfully deploy to European bases and other NATO installations, as well as familiarize pilots with the regional theater.
“You can bet that I will be asking for that capability,” Gorenc said when asked whether the Air Force is considering a permanent F-22 base in Europe. “I recognize there’s priorities to be accomplished and I’m hoping that we every once in a while come above the line. but I think we’re ready, we proved a lot.”
Gorenc’s comments come just weeks after top Pentagon officials began calling Russia the greatest threat to the United States.