A USAF F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off from Lask Air Base in Poland. Photo: courtesy of USAF Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee/Released
12 March 2014 airforce-technology.com
The US will deploy additional F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft to Poland in the coming days, in response to the increasing tensions in Ukraine.
Pentagon spokesman Army colonel Steve Warren said the US European Command would provide the aircraft once the decision is finalised and the number of aircraft is confirmed.
In addition to this, a decision has been made to increase the size of the US aviation detachment in Poland, following a request from the country.
Warren said ten US Air Force (USAF) personnel are currently stationed at Lask Air Base in Poland, but the country does not maintain a permanent jet presence at the base.
"What we are doing is reassuring our allies that we are there for them," Warren said.
"This is an important time for us to make it crystal clear to all our allies and partners in the region that the United States of America stands by them."
Polish defence ministry spokesman Jacek Sonta was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying that the aircraft and personnel are being sent as part of an exercise, which was initially planned to be conducted at a smaller scale but was increased due to the "tense political situation" in Ukraine.
"The unit will be composed of 12 F-16 planes and will transport 300 soldiers," Sonta said.
"What we are doing is reassuring our allies that we are there for them."
A part of Spangdahlem, the Germany-based 52nd Fighter Wing, the US airmen support quarterly rotations of F-16s and C-130 aircraft for joint training with the Polish Air Force.
Normally, the US has four annual aircraft rotations to the air base, with at least two weeks of flying per rotation.
The deployment represents one of the visible actions the US has taken since the Russian incursion into Ukraine, and follows the departure of additional six F-15C Eagle aircraft to augment the air policing mission in the Baltics.
In addition to this, the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Truxton has been deployed to the Black Sea.