Air Force sends F-35s, F-15s to Europe in combat readiness test
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 16, 2019
STUTTGART, Germany — The U.S. Air Force sent a group of fighters and transport aircraft to Poland, Lithuania and Estonia Tuesday in a test of the service's ability to quickly deploy air power overseas, the military said.
The deployment of F-35A Lightning IIs, F-15E Strike Eagles and C130s arrived at Powidz air base in Poland as part of Operation Rapid Forge — a drill designed to test Air Force combat readiness, U.S. Air Forces in Europe said in a statement.
“The ability to operate at forward locations enables collective defense capabilities and provides the U.S. and NATO allies the strategic and operational breadth needed to deter adversaries and assure our allies and partners,” USAFE said.
The aircraft conducted refueling and re-arming operations using inert munitions.
The deployment was connected to the Pentagon’s new Dynamic Force Employment strategy, which is focused on using more unpredictable deployments to demonstrate military agility to possible adversaries.
The Dynamic Force Employment concept, pushed by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, is altering how the services train and operate overseas.
For the Navy, it has meant a shift away from traditional six-month deployments to a flexible system that can involve shorter but more frequent stints at sea. And in March, the Army dispatched and it 1,500 soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas, to Germany and onward to Poland in one of the service’s largest snap mobilizations to Europe in years.
The F-35s taking part in Rapid Forge are from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The F-15E Strike Eagles are deployed from the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. While in Europe, the squadrons of fighter jets are operating out of Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany. The exercise also involves MC-130J aircraft from the 352nd Special Operations Wing at RAF Mildenhall, England and C-130J aircraft from the 317th Airlift Wing at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle, assigned to the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., takes off at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, July 16, 2019, during Operation Rapid Forge.The Air Force deployed F-35s and F-15s to Germany on a short notice deployment, part of a Pentagon concept to send military assets overseas on quick training missions.
KYLE COPE/U.S. AIR FORCE