As part of NATO’s plan to bolster its collective defense posture, the 90th FS F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets will take over the mission from the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35 Lightning II strike fighters.
US Air Force Gen. James Hecker, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, and NATO Allied Air Command commander, visited the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Łask, Poland, to welcome 12 US Air Force F-22 Raptors forward deploying from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 5.
According to a USAF news release, as part of NATO’s plan to bolster its collective defense posture, the 90th FS will take over the mission from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing, which has been executing the coalition’s Air Policing mission since their arrival in theater, May 2.
The F-35 Lightening IIs of the158th FW completed their 3-month rotational deployment at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, in support of NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission along the Eastern flank and returned to Vermont Aug. 3, 2022.
“This F-22 deployment will add significant capabilities to our support of NATO’s collective defense,” Hecker said. “The Raptors ability to perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions will exponentially increase the warfighting capability along the eastern flank as this rotation supports NATO’s Air Shielding.”
In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders.
The F-22 has a significant capability to attack surface targets. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally and will use on-board avionics for navigation and weapons delivery support. The F-22 can also carry eight 250-pound GBU-39B Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs). The Raptor also carries two AIM-120s and two AIM-9s in the air-to-ground configuration.
The Air Shielding mission is designed to increase the air and missile defense posture along the eastern flank of NATO’s alliance and is purely a defensive mission to shield and protect allied territory and populations and is a key component of NATO’s Deterrence and Defense posture.
Six F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, are being forward deployed to Łask Air Base, Poland, to temporarily support the US contribution to the NATO Air Shielding mission. The F-22s will ultimately take over that mission.
“Our Airmen are well trained and ready to assist our NATO allies,” Hecker said. “Our Airmen’s ability to adapt, support and integrate with NATO’s Air Shielding mission shows our ability to respond to an ever-changing dynamic warfighting environment and strengthen the alliance.”
The F-22 is a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, and is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances to defeat threats. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot, and kill air-to-air and cruise missile threats.
Hecker also met with Gen. Jarosław Mika, commander of Poland’s Armed Forces General Command and discussed the US-Poland Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The EDCA enhances security cooperation and the long-standing defense partnership between the US and Poland.
Photo credit: SSgt Danielle Sukhlall / U.S. Air Force