According to some rumors, the six F-22 Raptor stealth jets that left the U.S. on Saturday were deploying near Russia following the Crimean crisis. But the aircraft were simply heading to the Middle East.
On Mar. 30, six F-22 from Langley Air Force Base made a stopover at Moron air base, in Spain. The Raptors had departed as Mazda 01 from the U.S. as a flight of 8 (2 were spares) on Mar. 29 and had crossed the Atlantic Ocean alongside the accompanying tankers: two KC-10 (Gold 51 and 52, 87-0118 and 85-0032) from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, and a spare KC-135R (Gold 53 62-3547) from Pease Air National Guard Base, NH.
Milair UHF and VHF band listeners on the East Coast monitored the F-22 formation through initial contact with Giant Killer, rejoin with the tankers and subsequent Oceanic Clearance to destination.
The news that six Raptors were crossing the Pond on a Coronet East mission fueled rumors that the stealth multirole jets could be deploying as a further U.S. response to the Russian invasion of Crimea.
However, it quickly turned out that the F-22s were just involved in the usual rotation at Al Dhafra UAE: indeed, after the stop in Spain, the six aircraft headed to the Persian Gulf, were they have been a constant presence for some years.
Anyway, a deployment in Poland, Turkey or Romania, would be no more than a symbolic move: the U.S. radar-evading planes could only deter Russia’s aircraft from supporting ground operations and prevent them from operating undisturbed in the skies over Crimea or eastern Ukraine.
For real war, Pentagon would have to commit different and more capable tools of persuasion.
H/T to Kyle Fleming for providing additional details about the deployment as well as audio recordings of both Mazda 01 and Gold 51 flights.
Image credit: Daniel Guerra