Six American F-22 Raptor combat jets arrived at a base in the U.K., enroute to Poland, which borders war-torn Ukraine.
The F-22s from the 90th Fighter Squadron of the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, will be traveling from RAF Lakenheath, U.K., to the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Lask, Poland, to support NATO’s air shielding mission, U.S. Air Forces in Europe confirmed.
The Air Shielding mission, the service says, will “provide a near seamless shield from the Baltic to Black Seas, ensuring NATO Allies are better able to safeguard and protect Alliance territory, populations and forces from air and missile threat.”
Throughout the war in Ukraine, Moscow has targeted Ukrainian assets alarmingly close the Polish border, including firing more than 30 rockets at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv just about 25km from Poland. Russia has also attacked an airfield in Lutsk, also located very close to Poland.
Guests on Kremlin-controlled TV channel, Russia-1 predicted in June that NATO member state Poland could be the next Russian target for an invasion.
“Perhaps it's time to acknowledge that maybe Russia's special operation in Ukraine has come to an end, in a sense that a real war had started: World War III. We're forced to conduct the demilitarization not only of Ukraine, but of the entire NATO alliance,” Russia-1 presenter Olga Skabeeva was quoted by journalist Julia Davis.
Another guest, Vladimir Avatkov, a member of the Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, replied, “You mentioned WW III and the way Americans and Poles are acting on the territory of Ukraine—indeed, we need to remember the words of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, who said that anyone who tries to interfere in the special military operation will pay a heavy price.”
Fearing a Russian attack, Poland this week spent billions of dollars to buy 48 FA-50 light attack fighters, 980 K2 battle tanks and 648 K9 howitzers.
Commenting on the deal, Deputy Prime Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said, “Why such a weapon? Because we learn lessons from what is happening in Ukraine. We learn lessons from how the aggressor attacks, how Russia has attacked.”
German Brig. Gen. Christoph Pliet, the deputy chief of staff operations at the NATO Allied Air Command headquarters, has said the aim of the NATO’s mission is to "deter and shield against any possible Russian aggression," Stars and Stripes reported previously.
The U.S. had also sent two PATRIOT surface-to-air missile batteries to Poland in March to enforce a no-fly zone, making it difficult for Russian warplanes to fly in the targeted area. French Rafale jets are also in Polish territory “to strengthen the deterrence and defense posture on the NATO eastern flank.”
Earlier in July, F-35s from the Vermont Air National Guard forward-deployed to Estonia’s Amari Air Base, to support the air shielding mission. Prior to that, the U.S.A.F. moved F-15s, F-16s, other F-35s, and many more aircraft into Eastern Europe, participating in NATO’s Baltic air policing and enhanced air policing missions.