After having arrived in Europe the F-35s will spend several weeks in the region as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, the U.S. effort to strengthen military ties with European allies and aimed to help deter Russian aggression on the continent
As reported by Defense News the Pentagon announced today that U.S. Air Force (USAF) is going to deploy a small number of F-35As from the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to an undisclosed location in Europe this weekend.
After having arrived in Europe the aircraft will spend several weeks in the region as part of the European Reassurance Initiative, the U.S. effort to strengthen military ties with European allies and also aimed to deter Russian aggression on the continent.
“This training deployment signifies an important milestone and natural progression of the F-35 program, allowing the Air Force to further demonstrate the operational capabilities of the fifth generation fighter aircraft,” said the Defense Department in a news release. “It also assists in refining requirements for eventually basing the F-35A in Europe, which is scheduled to receive the aircraft in the early 2020s.”
Noteworthy an F-35 deployment to Europe has been in the works since the Obama administration. In Dec. 2016 in fact, former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James claimed that the service F-35 would have reached Europe in the summer of 2017.
“Now that the F-35 has been declared combat capable, we will deploy our newest fighter to Europe in the not too distant future,” she said then during a speech at the Atlantic Council. “Matter of fact, if I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if the F-35 didn’t make an appearance, perhaps, next summer. The unique combination of stealth, situational and sensor fusion will play an important role in reassuring allies and providing deterrence.”
A claim confirmed in Feb., by former Air Combat Command head Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, who said that USAF F-35s could have been deployed to Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions as early as this spring, with a deployment to the Middle East probably following a couple years later.
Although the Air Force won’t say where the F-35s will be based during their European deployment, one potential option is British Royal Air Force (RAF) base Lakenheath, England, which will be the first Air Force base overseas to receive the joint strike fighter.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum and Master Sgt. Eric Burks / U.S. Air Force