As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds on, the U.S. Air Force deployed four F-16 fighters to neighboring Poland on Oct. 3, keeping up the service’s continuous presence on NATO’s eastern flank.
The F-16s came from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and arrived at Powidz Air Base, Poland, to replace four F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., according to a release from U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
The F-15Es executed NATO air policing missions at Lask Air Base, Poland, starting in Nov. 2022. F-22 Raptors from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., also rotated through Powidz Air Base starting in April.
“Operating from forward locations allows U.S. Air Force Airmen to live, train, and operate alongside European counterparts while enabling NATO’s collective defense capabilities,” the USAFE release noted. “This capability is critical for a timely and coordinated response, if and when called upon.”
Powidz, located in central Poland, is also near the Baltic Sea. The F-22s that deployed there this spring also conducted an Agile Combat Employment exercise in Estonia—the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania don’t have robust air forces of their own and rely on NATO allies to conduct air policing missions in the region to deter Russia.
On the same day the F-16s arrive in Poland, U.S. President Joe Biden participated in a conference call with allies and partners including Polish President Andrzej Duda of Poland and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a conference call.
During the call, which also include leaders from Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, the U.K., and more, the leaders discussed “efforts to provide Ukraine with the ammunition and weapons systems it needs to defend its territory against Russian aggression, [and] to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses to protect its critical infrastructure from Russia’s aerial assaults,” according to the White House statement.