The U.S. Air Force has deployed its top-of-the-line F-22 fighters to Europe for the second time in a year in a show of commitment to NATO allies, the U.S. European Command announced Monday.
F-22 Raptors from 95th Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle arrived at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England on Monday for a deployment that will last into next month, the command said in a statement.
The Raptors also will visit other NATO bases in Europe in “to maximize training opportunities, affirm enduring commitments to NATO allies, and deter any actions that destabilize regional security,” the statement said.
It is the second deployment for Raptors from Tyndall to Europe in the past nine months. Last August, the twin-engine jets, which cost about $143 million each, were sent to Germany.
The stealthy F-22s, which Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welch III has called the service’s “best air-to-air capability,” became operational in 2005 but only saw their first combat in attacks on ISIS positions in Syria in 2014. Besides attacking other aircraft, they can be configured to bomb ground targets.
The deployment of the Raptors is the second noteworthy deployment of U.S. fighter jets to Europe in the past two weeks. On April 1, the Air Force sent 12 F-15Cs to Iceland and the Netherlands.
And next month, F-15s will deploy to Finland as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which the United States initiated in 2014 to reassure NATO allies after Russian military intervention in Ukraine.