In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the US Air Force (USAF) deployed several of its aircraft to Eastern Europe: F-16s deployed to Romania, F-15s went to Poland, and F-35s landed in Germany. As the invasion first unfolded, F-35s from Germany were deployed to NATO’s eastern flank, including Romania. According to Air Force Magazine, a B-52 also deployed to the region around the same time, as part of what USAFE called a “long-planned Bomber Task Force Europe mission over the Arctic and Baltic Sea regions.” Finally, two F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighter jets from Aviano Air Base, Italy, deployed to Croatia on Mar. 16, 2022 a few days after a military drone crashed in the Croatian capital of Zagreb (Croatian officials were not able to determine whether it was Russian or Ukrainian).
One aircraft the USAF did not deploy to Eastern Europe to deter Russia is the F-22 Raptor. Why?
‘Because for some reason we decided to deploy our most sophisticated air superiority fighter to the UAE to counter Houthi rebels firing ballistic missiles while a situation was developing in Eastern Europe that fits the Raptor’s original mission requirement perfectly,’ Air Combat Analyst Connor Hall says on Quora.
Intended as replacement for the F-15 as America’s front-line dominance fighter, the F-22 is the result of a 1981 USAF study for a new air superiority fighter that would take advantage of new technologies in fighter design including composite materials, lightweight alloys, advanced flight control systems, higher power propulsion systems and stealth technology.
Since it entered service in 2005 the F-22 exceeded the USAF’s expectations: its combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The Raptor possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.
As reported by Military Times, Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, the commander of the US Air Force’s Mideast command, said in a statement about the F-22’s deployment to the UAE: “The Raptors’ presence will bolster already strong partner nation defenses and puts destabilizing forces on notice that the U.S. and our partners are committed to enabling peace and stability in the region.”
But even though the USAF has an F-22 Squadron deployed to Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and several others tied up in other operational deployments ‘a squadron performing CAP duties on the Polish border instead of F-15s would be massively beneficial for deterrence at the moment, although direct action against Putin’s volatile demeanor may be hazardous with his finger on the nuclear button,’ Hall continued.
‘I think many of us are itching to see the F-22 do precisely what it was built for—destroying large numbers of highly-maneuverable Soviet [now Russian] fighters from BVR in Eastern Europe.
‘If NATO ever decides to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine [it won’t and we extensively explained HERE why] and with a coordinated grounding of Ukrainian Air Force (UAF) assets to eliminate IFF concerns [but UAF currently lacks command and control capabilities], I’m confident around 8-12 Raptors could sanitize the skies over Ukraine within an hour and Russia [aircraft] wouldn’t know what hit them.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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