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Air Force to deploy F-22s to Europe

The U.S. will deploy F-22 fighter jets to Europe "very soon" as part of the "European Reassurance Initiative," says the Air Force. (Video: Reuters)

The Air Force is set to deploy a small number of F-22 fighters to Europe, the first deployment of its kind, as a part of the continuing effort to reassure allies in the region, a senior Air Force official announced Monday.

“Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and to our European allies,” Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force told reporters.

James, who called the deployment “the strong side of the coin,” in the United States’ approach to Russia noted that the aircraft’s presence in the region is rotational and specifically for training.

While James did not say when the aircraft would deploy for operational security reasons, she did emphasize that they would be deploying “soon.”

The announcement to send the additional fighter comes less than week after the Air Force announced that it would be sending an additional dozen A-10 Thunderbolts to Europe in support of a training exercise scheduled there.

The F-22 and A-10 are markedly different aircraft. The F-22’s primary role is for air-to-air combat against other fighters, while the A-10’s job is mainly for close air support for troops on the ground.

The F-22 deployment will be for a relatively short amount of time and will not be supporting the current air policing efforts in the region, according to Pentagon Spokesman Maj. James Brindle.

Russian incursions into European airspace has skyrocketed since the conflict in Ukraine started last year, with NATO reporting more than 150 Russian intrusions in 2014, more than four times the amount in 2013.

In the instance of both the F-22 and A-10 deployments, the Air Force has reiterated that the main purpose of the aircraft’s presence is to help train and familiarize the United States’ European allies.