Fighter Jets Deployed To Europe To Show American Commitment While Russians Buzz U.S. Navy Warship

Jinger Jarrett - Author
By

Apr. 13 2016, Updated 6:41 p.m. ET

The United States sent F-22 fighter jets to Europe to bolster the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance. The F-22 Raptors are the most stealthy fighter jets in the U.S. Air Force inventory. No word has been given on how many planes were deployed or how many airmen will be needed to support the planes while they are there.

Military reported that the planes landed at Royal Air Base Lakenheath in Great Britain. The fifth generation fighter jets will be conducting training exercises until next month to enhance commitments to the European alliance while stabilizing regional security.

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The F-22s are assigned to the 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. They will deploy from Lakenheath to air bases throughout Europe. This is their second deployment to Europe in a year as they deployed last summer in support of training exercises in Europe.

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The deployment was part of the White House’s European Reassurance Initiative, deployed against a Russian threat.

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“It was intended to provide ‘a persistent U.S. air, land, and sea presence in the region, especially in Central and Eastern Europe’ for NATO allies ‘deeply concerned by Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and other provocative actions in Ukraine.'”

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As part of the strategy, the White House proposed increasing the funding for the initiative from $1 billion to $4 billion with the additional funding going into effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year on October 1. Additionally, last week the Air Force deployed 12 F-15 Eagle fighter jets to Iceland and the Netherlands in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

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The Daily Mail UK reported that Russian fighter jets also buzzed a U.S. warship in the Baltic Sea. It happened during a routine training mission that the warship was conducting in the area. The two Russian SU-24 fighters flew 30 feet over the USS Donald Cook in a simulated attack. The wings of the fighter jets were “wings clean,” which means they were visibly unarmed.

A defense official said that the move was so aggressive that it created a wake in the water when it passed over. The move came at the same time that a Polish helicopter was taking off from the deck of the destroyer. The Polish helicopter was also conducting routine training operations during the incident.

Right after the maneuver, a Russian KA-27 Helix helicopter flew over the warship and took photos of it. The helicopter is traditionally designed to take out submarines. The USS Donald Cook was conducting routine training operations approximately 70 nautical miles from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

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A defense official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the action was pretty aggressive.

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“This is more aggressive than anything we’ve seen in some time.”

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A Russian intelligence-gathering vessel had been following the warship prior to the incident that took place with the fighter jets. The sailors on the USS Donald Cook also contacted the personnel aboard the Russian ship to reassure them that it was only a routine training mission.

The White House issued a statement about the close call, condemning Russia for a series of clashes between Russian military and U.S. forces.

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“There have been repeated incidents over the last year where the Russian military, including Russian military aircraft, have come close enough to each other or have come close enough to other air and sea traffic to raise serious safety concerns, and we continue to be concerned about this behavior.”

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The build up in Europe and the deployment of fighter jets and additional training missions comes at a time when NATO partners in the Baltic region, as well Poland, consider Russia a more aggressive threat. It is the biggest build up since the Cold War.

[Photo via U.S. Air Force]

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