For the first time, F-35 Lightning II stealth aircraft landed in Poland.
Four F-35As (15-5200, 17-5239, 17-5245, 17-5251) flying from Spangdahlem, accompanied by two F-15Es and C-130Js landed at the Polish Powidz Airbase on Jul. 16, 2019, around 13.00LT.
They spent around an hour at the Powidz AB: the visit took place within the framework of Operation ‘Rapid Forge’ and its objective was to conduct refueling and re-arming operations using inert munitions. The operation takes place simultaneously in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia.
The F-35s visiting Powidz belong to 388th and 419th Fighter Wings based at the Hill Air Force Base, UT, while the F-15Es were from the 4th FW out of Seymour Johnson AFB, NC. Both are currently deployed to Spangdahlem, Germany.
What’s interesting, the Seymour-Johnson Strike Eagles accompanying the Lightnings also carried the AN/ASQ-236 “Dragon’s Eye” Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar pods on their centerline stations.
This was also the first time that the F-35 Lightning II landed in Poland. Along with the operational purpose of the deployment, the visit may also had some marketing goals, given Poland’s Harpia program, that sees the F-35 among the candidates (actually, the favorite one) for the replacement of the Polish Air Force’s legacy Fulcrums and Fitters.
Powidz Airbase is becoming a regular stopover for U.S. assets in eastern Europe: notably, while it was the first time an F-35 landed there, it was not the first time a 5th generation fighter aircraft paid visit to Powidz: The remote airbase near the city of Gniezno hosted F-22A Raptors in the past (last year, during the Polish Military’s parade on 15th August, in Warsaw).
The aircraft landing in Powidz were carrying external outer wing pylons.
USAF currently has 421st Fighter Squadron’s F-35As deployed to Europe as a part of the European Theater Security Package that kicked off in Aviano AB in May. The 12 Joint Strike Fighters moved to Spangdahlem AB, Germany, in June.