US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft have started arriving at RAF Lakenheath, England, from where they will deploy to the 32nd Tactical Air Base, Łask, Poland, to support the NATO Air Shielding mission in the European theater.
The aircraft are from the 90th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and will be supporting Air Shielding as the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
The first six Raptors arrived in Suffolk, England, on July 26, and will followed by another six, which are set to arrive on July 27.
The NATO Air Shielding mission integrates allied air and surface based air and missile Defense units into the NATO integrated air and missile defense system under NATO command and control.
According to the US Air Force, it 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.”
The fifth generation Raptors contribute to the air shielding mission with their ability to provide lethality and survivability against any emerging high end threats. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts.
The Raptors are joining another fifth-generation platform based at Lakenheath, the F-35. The first F-35As to be based in Europe arrived at their new home in Suffolk in December last year. The US has already deployed its F-35s to NATO’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The Raptor is a critical component of the global strike task force, and designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances to defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Army, Navy and Marine Corps. It cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft, making it a highly strategic platform to support NATO Air Shielding,” the service said in a release.