(RoyalPatriot.com )- The Vermont Air National Guard’s F-35 fighter jets will be deployed for the first time to Europe, where they will patrol the skies amid one of the most turbulent moments in recent history.
More than 200 Vermont air guard members, equipment, and eight F-35 fighter jets have arrived in Europe. The pilots will conduct intensified air policing operations along NATO’s eastern border to keep an eye out for Russian aircraft.
The Vermont Air National Guard, the country’s first guard unit to fly the F-35, is making its first overseas deployment with the Air Force’s newest jet.
The deployment comes only months after the Vermont National Guard finished converting from F-16 fighter jets to F-35s, which began arriving in Vermont in September 2019.
Lt. Col John “Rocky” MacRae, a squadron commander of the Vermont Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing, said they are there to protect NATO, not to start something or be violent.
After years of preparation, the F-35s from Hill Air Force Base and the Vermont National Guard is a small but rising number of F-35 units ready for combat.
NATO, a military alliance comprising 30 European, American, and Canadian countries, was formed in WWII to resist the military threat posed by the former Soviet Union. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has emphasized the alliance’s current significance.
The heightened air policing operation, according to NATO, is part of a more extensive set of steps implemented after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. It entails maintaining a constant presence of fighter aircraft and crews ready to respond to airspace infractions.
NATO claimed on April 29 that planes had been dispatched in the days before to detect and intercept Russian aircraft in the Baltic and the Black Sea regions. According to NATO, Russian aircraft do not submit flight plans or interact with air traffic controllers since they frequently do not broadcast a radio code identifying their position and altitude.
According to the alliance, the Russian aircraft never crossed NATO airspace, and the interceptions were performed safely and routinely.
The Vermont planes replace F-35 fighter jets from Utah’s Hill Air Force Base, which landed in Europe in February, just before Russia invaded Ukraine.
According to retired Maj, there is usually a learning curve on a unit’s first deployment with a new aircraft. Gen. Donald Shepperd, a former chief of the Air National Guard, believes the Vermont unit will adjust as required.
Shepperd said that they’re capable of anything. They’re also aboard the most remarkable jet, the best fighter the US Air Force has. They are the first to fly it, the first to deploy it, and the first to deploy it operationally.
Shepperd believes it exemplifies how the Air National Guard’s role has evolved, from receiving outdated equipment to regularly participating in Air Force missions with the most up-to-date equipment.
ACCORDING TO THE AIR FORCE, the F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter that blends stealth technology with the capacity to carry out numerous missions. The Air Force, Navy, and Marines all have different types, and the planes are marketed to US allies worldwide.
The F-35 program is also the most costly weapons system in US military history, with a projected total cost of $1.5 trillion during the program’s planned half-century lifespan. Each plane in the Vermont model costs around $94 million.
Both the active-duty Air Force and the Air National Guard are equipping more of their units with F-35s. The Air Guard squadron in Vermont was the first to receive the planes.
Last week, the Vermont National Guard began sending men to Europe to help with the air policing operation. After a trans-Atlantic journey from Burlington International Airport, eight Vermont F-35s arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany on Monday.
Officials with the Vermont National Guard won’t reveal where its planes will be patrolling in Europe. According to the Air Force, Utah fighters operated from Estonia’s Amari Air Base, Lithuania’s Siauliai Air Base, and Romania’s Fetesti Air Base near the Black Sea.
MacRae, a Vermont F-35 pilot and combat veteran who has flown in Iraq and Syria on his sixth deployment, dismissed the stress that pilots could experience when flying such missions while NATO-Russia tensions are high. He stated that they are prepared for any situation.
Shepperd, a Vietnam war veteran, said he was confident the Vermont pilots and other staff understand the mission’s importance and will be briefed on the conditions. The pilots are well aware that they are not to act provocatively.
Shepperd said that everyone knows we can protect ourselves if something horrible occurs. However, you don’t want to be the one who starts World War III.