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Raptors bolster USAF's European presence

17 May 2016
The USAF has staged its second major training deployment of F-22 Raptors to Europe with 12 aircraft having deployed to RAF Lakenheath. Source: US Air Force/Jim Haseltine

The US Air Force (USAF) has completed a month-long deployment with 12 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors to RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.

Operated by 95th Fighter Squadron, which is based at Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, the F-22 began arriving in the United Kingdom from 11 April to fly joint training missions with the resident 48th Fighter Wing, which flies F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles.

The latest deployment was on a far larger scale and was again a temporary duty deployment under Operation 'Atlantic Resolve'. Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Lehoski, commander of the 95th Fighter Squadron, said that the F-22 deployments are related to "increasing the [aircraft's] presence in Europe".

"Part of this trip was definitely to practice operating out of different bases in Europe and every time we take F-22s to new locations we learn new things about the specifics of each location that will make it easier if we do need to go back there on TDY [temporary deployment] or on contingency operations," Lt Col Lehoski said.

The deployment saw the F-22s spearheading Exercise 'Iron Hand 16-3', which involved all three Lakenheath-based F-15 squadrons and RAF Eurofighter Typhoons. The Raptors also forward deployed to Romania and Lithuania to "maximise training opportunities and demonstrate the US commitment to NATO allies".

This particular element of the training was to demonstrate the so-called 'Rapid Raptor' concept, whereby two F-22s were detached, along with support assets on a tanker, to demonstrate how they can "go anywhere in the world with very little co-ordination and notice", according to the USAF.

The first week of the UK exercise was geared towards scenarios with modern long-range ground threats that required the F-22s to fly simulated Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (DEAD) missions. The second week was about fighter integration and DCA, with the third week structured for what Lt Col Lehoski called "more conventional OCA [Offensive Counter Air]; escorting F-15Es into target areas".

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