USAF Eagles heading East amid growing tensions with Russia.
According to a NATO Allied Air Command press release, US fighter jets are about to start their stay at the Łask Air Base in central Poland to enhance the “NATO’s collective defence posture and support the NATO Air Policing mission.”
In particular, the U.S. Air Force would deploy its 48th Fighter Wing‘s F-15C and F-15D jets, normally stationed at RAF Lakenheath in the UK; the Eagles are scheduled to join the Polish and Danish assets working in the region – deployed to Siauliai in Lithuania, within the framework of NATO’s BAP (Baltic Air Policing) mission. The reinforcement is said to boost readiness, deterrence, and defensive capabilities of the alliance, amidst the Russian military buildup around Ukraine.
Along with the routine sorties flown to support the NATO Air Policing, the deployment is to involve thorough work with other allies stationed in the region.
“The deployment of U.S. F-15s to Poland elevates the collective defense capabilities on NATO’s Eastern flank and the enhanced Air Policing mission”, said General Jeff Harrigian, Commander Allied Air Command and Commander U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa. “The commitment of U.S. aircraft and Airmen demonstrates the solidarity of the Alliance, as we continue to work together in unity to execute our defensive mission”.
As usual, in case of the eAP (enhanced Air Policing) initiative, the US jets would be coordinated by the CAOC UE (Combined Air Operations Center in Ueden, Germany). This body is responsible for directing, tasking, and coordinating the assets deployed to Northern Europe, in peacetime, crisis, and conflict, as the NATO’s release specifies. In essence, the fact that the jets remain at different locations does not necessarily mean that they are separately commanded, as CAOC views the eAP as one, big operation. CAOC’s staff is multinational and remains in touch with Control and Reporting Centres, National Air Policing Centres and dedicated Quick Reaction Alert bases routinely to execute NATO’s Air Policing mission.
Enhanced Air Policing is one of the tools that has been implemented as a part of the Assurance Measures promoting the regional stability. Even though Baltic Air Policing has – so far – been associated mainly with the Siauliai AB in Lithuania, NATO currently has numerous assets stationed in multiple locations, boosting the deterrence and air potential in the area. Not only have the jets been stationed in Lithuania (Polish Air Force, Royal Danish Air Force), as currently they also remain on location in Iceland (currently – Portuguese Air Force), Estonia (Belgian Air Component, USAF), Poland (USAF) and Romania (Italian and German Air Force).
Anyway, F-15s of the 48th FW have already deployed to Poland operating within the framework of an Agile Combat Employment exercise. For instance, in April 2021, 20x F-15s (both E and C models from RAF Lakenheath, UK) and 4x F-16s (assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany) deployed to Łask (EPLK) and Krzesiny (EPKS) airbases for Aviation Detachment Rotation (AvRot) 21-2.
By the way, as we write this article, U.S. B-52s from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, are deploying to RAF Fairford, UK, as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation..