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Hill AFB fighters moved to NATO flank after Russian invasion

Hill Air Force Base fighter jets deployed.jpg
Posted at 12:04 PM, Feb 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 17:53:19-05

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.

READ: Russia has captured the site of Chernobyl disaster, Ukraine says

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.

Hill Air Force Base F-35 Lightning II
Two U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepare to land at the 86th Air Base, Romania, Feb. 24, 2022.

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.

An Airman from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 421st Aircraft Maintenance unit marshals an F-35A Lightning II during night flying operations at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, March 26, 2019. Night flying is required for pilots to sharpen their combat skills and maintainers work around the clock to prepare jets for flight, inspect them after flight, and get them ready for the next flying day. The 388th Fighter Wing is the Air Force’s first combat-coded F-35A wing.

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.