Uncle Sam wants to send the F-35 Lightning II to the Baltic Sea for some air policing. Or, at least, USAF Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle does, telling the House Armed Services Committee that Air Forces in that part of the world are eager to see the new stealth fighter in action.
"We would like to have F-35s—for example—do some Baltic air policing," Gen. Carlisle said on Wednesday. "That's one of the missions NATO does up in the Baltic regions—Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—in that part of the world and put F-35s up to demonstrate. As I talk to the air chiefs over in Europe in this past week, all of them are very interested for their own countries to be able to see the visibility of that airplane out doing operational missions."
The move, The National Interest reports, would be a lot like what the Air Force has done with the F-22 Raptor – shipping up to 12 aircraft to theaters across the globe to support allies and send a message to potential adversaries, like Russia. Vladimir Putin's air force has grown increasingly belligerent, especially in the Baltic, with numerous reports of Russian fighters and bombers rolling through the region, buzzing US Navy ships and coming dangerously close to the sovereign airspace of the US' allies. Russian fighters have even extended as far as the North Sea – Royal Air Force fighters intercepted the Russkies off the UK coast earlier this year.
Gen. Carlisle didn't give a timeline on when the F-35 could arrive in the Baltic, or even if it could happen in the first place. But the simple mention of F-35s that near Russia is sure to send a message.