After a US MQ-9 Reaper drone was downed by a Russian Su-27 fighter jet over the Black Sea, the US Air Force has now deployed its advanced F-22 Raptors to Poland to strengthen NATO’s defenses.
In a show of force, American F-22 Raptor fighter jets landed in Poland on a rotational mission to enhance NATO’s defense capabilities and counter potential threats from Russia.
With the latest deployment, the Raptors are poised to soar over NATO’s Eastern Flank, close to Russia.
On April 11, Mariusz Błaszczak, Poland’s Minister of National Defense, tweeted that the USAF F-22 fighter jets had arrived in the country to collaborate with the Polish air force. This is part of an effort to enhance the collective defense capabilities of NATO allies on the alliance’s eastern flank.
Polish MoD said, “US F-22 Raptor fighter jets have landed in Poland. One of the world’s most modern aircraft will work alongside Polish pilots continuing support on the NATO’s eastern flank.”
— Poland MOD ?? (@Poland_MOD) April 11, 2023
The US Air Force command in Europe and Africa stated that the F-22 Raptors sent to Powidz in Wielkopolskie Province, Poland are part of a rotational mission.
These F-22s are from the 94th Fighter Squadron, based in Langley-Eustis Air Force Base in Virginia, and will take over the fighter mission from the F-15 aircraft belonging to the Royal Air Force Lakenheath’s 48th Fighter Wing.
The USAF noted that the air base in Poland provides the United States with the necessary infrastructure and proximity to allies and partners, which is crucial for executing various missions along the Eastern Flank, as well as in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea regions.
This arrangement facilitates close collaboration between coalition forces, improving interoperability and joint efforts. However, this is not the first time these stealth fighter aircraft arrived in Poland.
In August 2022, 12 F-22 Raptors from the United States Air Force’s 90th Fighter Squadron stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska landed at the 32nd Tactical Air Base in Łask, Poland.
The F-22 Raptor was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to replace the F-15 Eagle. It was designed as the world’s first fifth-generation fighter jet, with stealth being a crucial feature.
The original plan was to build 750 F-22s, but the end of the Cold War meant that the US Air Force no longer had a rival air force to compete with.
The US government subsequently reduced the number of F-22s it planned to produce, and in 2009, amidst a global financial crisis, it decided to stop production after manufacturing 187 aircraft.
As relations with both China and Russia have deteriorated over the past decade, both countries have developed their own fifth-generation fighter jets to rival the F-35 and F-22 fighter jets of the US Air Force.
China alone has over 200 Chengdu J-20 fighter jets, with another fifth-generation jet, the J-31, in development. The US Air Force is developing a replacement for the F-22 called Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) in response to the emerging threats. This sixth-generation fighter is expected to enter service in the late 2020s.
As per its 2024 budget request, the US Air Force has proposed retiring nearly 36 F-22 Raptors early to free up budget dollars to develop the stealth fighter’s future replacement.
The proposal to retire early F-22s has caused controversy, with some arguing that the Air Force could save money by upgrading these planes rather than retiring them.
Others have raised concerns that retiring the F-22s could leave the Air Force short of combat-ready fighter jets in the short term until the replacement Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter enters service in the late 2020s.
Nevertheless, the deployment of F-22s in Poland clearly signals the continued commitment of the US to its NATO allies in Eastern Europe with a commitment to keep the Russians in check.