A contingent of US F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters arrived on NATO’s eastern flank to reinforce Allied airspace following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, a total of six F-35s moved east from Germany to bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania as part of a broader troop and equipment rollover announced this week by President Joe Biden.
Biden said the move was defensive in nature and that the US “does not intend to go to war with Russia,” but promised to defend “every inch of NATO territory with all the might of America.” Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
“We are facing a dynamic environment and deploying F-35s on NATO’s eastern flank will strengthen our defensive posture and enhance Alliance interoperability,” said Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, Commander, USAF Europe and Africa. statement.
Fighters from the 388th Fighter Wing and the reserve 419th Fighter Wing operated from the Spangdahl Air Base in Germany.
The photographs show two front-line F-35 fighter jets landing on Thursday at Romania’s 86th Air Base, less than 100 miles from where the Danube River forms the border with Ukraine.
In addition, an undisclosed number of F-35 fighter jets landed at the NATO air base in Amari, near the Estonian capital Tallinn, on Thursday afternoon, Estonian media reported. It was reported that F-35 fighters also arrived at the NATO airbase in Lithuania.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron takes off from Spangdahl Air Base in Germany to reinforce NATO airspace on the eastern flank.
Two US Air Force F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters arrived on Thursday at the 86th Air Base in Romania. Aircraft and crews will work closely with allies in the Black Sea region to bolster regional security during the current crisis in Ukraine.
Two forward F-35 fighter jets that were operating from Spangdahl Air Base in Germany landed at Romania’s 86th Air Base, less than 100 miles from where the Danube River forms the border with Ukraine.
An F-35 is seen landing in Romania. On Thursday, a total of six F-35s moved east from Germany to bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania as part of a wider troop and equipment reshuffle.
US troops and equipment deployed to reinforce NATO allies near the war in Ukraine and near the border with Russia
“The F-35 provides unparalleled communications, command and control capabilities, and lethality for combined and combined forces,” US Air Force Europe and Africa said in a written statement.
“These capabilities give NATO leaders the flexibility to demonstrate power and assert air supremacy in a highly competitive environment.”
Biden on Thursday ordered an additional 7,000 US troops to be sent to Germany to bolster Russia’s containment.
Most of the additional troops will come from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Georgia, a senior Defense Department official said speaking in the background.
This means that a total of about 12,000 US troops have been deployed or ordered to deploy to Europe from the United States, and another 2,000 troops are already in Europe who have moved closer to NATO’s eastern flank.
Thus, the total number of US troops in Europe exceeds 90,000.
Biden announced the move of US troops and equipment eastward in Europe on Tuesday, saying the forces would help secure the border on NATO’s eastern flank and process refugees, but would not intervene militarily in Ukraine, where Russia launched a full-scale invasion early this morning. on Thursday.
On Wednesday evening, the first 40 troops of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, known as the “Soldiers of the Sky”, arrived in Latvia from their base in Italy.
The deployment is part of a move of 800 U.S. troops and equipment to the Baltic countries – the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which are now part of the NATO alliance.
US soldiers arrive in Europe after Biden ordered an additional 7,000 US troops to be sent to Germany to bolster Russia’s containment.
AH-64 Apache attack helicopters of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade prepare to fly from Germany to Lithuania and Latvia to conduct exercises with NATO allies.
A US Air Force F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron taxis at Spangdahl Air Force Base, Germany on Thursday before flying to Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, a total of six F-35s were moved east from Germany to bases in Estonia, Lithuania and Romania.
The small size of the deployment in the Baltics is tactically insignificant at the military level, but it appears to be intended to reassure NATO allies and serve as a “stretch line” that guarantees an immediate U.S. military response to any aggression against the Baltics.
However, the deployment of US troops in the Baltic states, which all border Russia, is sure to infuriate Putin, who has long demanded that NATO withdraw allied troops from Eastern Europe.
“I authorized additional movements of American forces and equipment already deployed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,” Biden said.
“Let me be clear: this is a completely defensive move on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia,” he added.
“However, we want to send an unmistakable message that the United States, along with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and uphold the commitments we have made to NATO,” Biden said.
The Pentagon says the troop deployment to the Baltic states is part of a larger deployment of troops and equipment that will bolster NATO allies in close proximity to the war in Ukraine and along the Russian border.
Twenty AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will also be deployed from Germany to the Baltic region, while 12 Apache helicopters will be deployed from Greece to Poland. Above Apache prepares for flight in Germany.
Apaches with the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade before leaving Germany for Lithuania and Latvia to reinforce the Allies.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved the transfer of up to eight F-35 Lightning II aircraft from Germany to operational points on NATO’s eastern flank.
Twenty AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will also be deployed from Germany to the Baltic region, while 12 Apache helicopters will be deployed from Greece to Poland.
“These additional personnel are moving to reassure our NATO allies, deter any potential aggression against NATO member states, and receive training with host country forces,” the US Department of Defense said in a written statement.
Biden has repeatedly said that Ukraine will not be able to join NATO, and is also confident that American troops will not go there to help push Russia back.
Addressing Americans at the White House on Thursday, Biden firmly stated the US commitment to protecting NATO allies.
“As I have made clear, the United States will defend every inch of NATO territory with all the might of America,” Biden said.
However, the president added: “Our forces will not be involved in a conflict with Russia in Ukraine.”
Early Thursday morning, a small detachment of 40 troops from the 173rd Airborne Brigade, known as the “Sky Soldiers”, arrived in Latvia from their base in Italy, the US Embassy in Riga confirmed.
Biden said the troop deployment was defensive in nature and that the U.S. “is not going to go to war with Russia.”
Meanwhile, Russia is facing stronger resistance than Moscow anticipated in its invasion of Ukraine, including an offensive against the capital Kiev, officials said on Friday.
Officials from the US and UK have said Russian forces have not made the gains they expected in Ukraine, with one official saying Russia “has fallen behind its first day targets.”
“The Russians have lost their momentum a bit,” a US Defense Department spokesman said. “No settlements were taken. Russia has yet to achieve air superiority.”
The official noted that Ukraine’s air and missile defense capabilities are still operational, albeit in decline.
“In general, according to our estimates, Russian forces are meeting more resistance than they expected,” the official added. “Ukrainian command and control is not damaged.”
A British intelligence update from the Ministry of Defense notes that Lviv, located in the far west of Ukraine, turned on air raid sirens, but officials saw no evidence of strikes on the city.