On 4 August 2022, a dozen Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter aircraft assigned to the USAF's 3rd Wing, normally based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (AK), forward deployed to the 32nd Tactical Air Base at Łask (Poland).
As part of NATO’s plan to bolster its collective defence posture, named "NATO Air Shielding", the 90th Fighter Squadron, part of the 3rd Wing, took over the mission from the Vermont Air National Guard’s 134th Fighter Squadron/158th Fighter Wing, which had been executing the coalition’s Air Policing mission with their F-35A Lightning IIs since their arrival in the European theatre on 2 May 2022.
In May 2022, Scramble Magazine reported on the Green Mountain Boys F-35A tasks whilst being deployed to Europe.
The Lightning IIs of the 134th FS/158th FW, with four additional HL coded 4th Fighter Wing F-35As, completed their three-month rotational deployment at Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany), in support of NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission along the Eastern flank and returned to Vermont and Utah on 3 August 2022.
Having staged through RAF Lakenheath (UK), the dozen AK coded Raptors are a critical component for NATO. Like the F-35A, a combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against various threats.
The F-22A possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. The Raptors ability to perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions will exponentially increase the warfighting capability along the eastern flank as this rotation supports NATO’s Air Shielding. The Air Shielding mission is designed to increase the air and (cruise) missile defence posture along the eastern flank of NATO’s alliance.
The following F-22As are now at Łask: 04-4074, 05-4090 (as 90FS flagship), 05-4103, 06-4110 (as 11AF flagship), 06-4112, 07-4136, 07-4138, 07-4144, 07-4149, 07-4151, 09-4190 and 10-4193 (as 3WG flagship).
On 2 and 3 August 2022, the following F-35As left Europe back to the Continental United States (CONUS): 17-5243/HL (as 4FS flagship), 17-5265/VT (as 158FW flagship), 17-5276/HL, 17-5278/VT, 17-5279/VT, 17-5280/VT, 17-5281/HL, 17-5282/HL (as 419OG flagship), 18-5336/VT, 18-5338/VT, 18-5339/VT and 18-5360/VT.
Photos by USAF and Michael Alexander (at Lakenheath, on Flickr)
Credit patch: https://flightlineinsignia.com