SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, fighter jets from Hill Air Force Base in Utah were deployed Thursday to regions in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea.
The Aviationist reports the jets from Hill Air Force Base will operate "for a period of time” from Estonia’s Amari Air Base, Lithuania’s Siauliai Air Base, and Romania’s Fetesti Air Base.
The F-35A Lightning II fighter jets, which had been moved from Utah to Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany last week, will join others "taking part in NATO enhanced air policing missions," according to Air Force Magazine.
“We are facing a dynamic environment, and the deployment of F-35s to NATO’s eastern flank enhances our defensive posture and amplifies the Alliance’s interoperability,” said Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, U.S. Air Force in Europe–Air Forces Africa commander.
Airmen at Hill AFB were prepared and ready to go when they were deployed to Europe on Feb. 16.
“Kind of like NFL players, [Airmen] want to get in the game. They scrimmage and they get ready and they practice and they roll and they go play in the big game. That’s exactly like the feeling that was here when we were getting folks out the door on this trip,” said Col. Matt Fritz, commander of the Reserve 419th Fighter Wing.
The Russian military commenced a widespread attack on Ukraine early Thursday morning from its northern, southern and eastern borders.
The shelling prompted thousands of people living in Kyiv — a city of about 3 million people — to pack up and evacuate the city. Photos taken by The Associated Press show hundreds of cars jam-packed on a westward-bound expressway leading out of the city.
Several of our F-35A Lightning II's are currently forward deployed from Spangdahlem Air Base to NATO's eastern flank in order to support enhanced air policing missions.— 388th Fighter Wing (@388fw) February 24, 2022
These missions enhance NATO's defensive posture and prove we can provide F-35A capabilities rapidly. pic.twitter.com/nNP9BkLrYa