Four US Air Force F-22 Raptors touched down in Germany on Friday, marking the start of the fighter jet's first-ever training deployment to Europe.

Four F-22s and 60 airmen from the 95th Fighter Squadron arrived at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on Friday, according to an Aug. 28 statement. One C-17 Globemaster III from the 60th Airlift Wing touched down along with the jets.

The aircraft and airmen will train with allied and US forces through mid-September, according to the statement.

"This inaugural Raptor training deployment is the perfect opportunity for these advanced aircraft to train alongside other U.S. Air Force aircraft, joint partners, and NATO allies," Gen. Frank Gorenc, US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said in the statement.

The training is designed to prove that fifth-generation fighter jets can successfully deploy to European bases and other NATO installations, as well as familiarize pilots with the regional theater. The deployment also will give the US planes a chance to conduct combat air training with different US and European jets, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon.

"It's important we test our infrastructure, aircraft capabilities, and the talented airmen and allies who will host 5th generation aircraft in Europe," Gorenc said. "This deployment advances our airpower evolution and demonstrates our resolve and commitment to European safety and security."

The Air Force announced Monday that the service would send F-22s to Europe for the first time, just weeks after top Pentagon brass began openly calling Russia the greatest threat to the United States. The deployment is part of the European Reassurance Initiative, a Pentagon effort to soothe anxiety among European allies in the face of increased Russian aggression.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James made clear during an Aug. 24 press conference at the Pentagon that the Raptor's "inaugural" deployment to Europe was designed to send a signal to Russia.

"Rotational forces and training exercises help us maintain our strong and balanced approach, and we will certainly be continuing those in the future," she said. "For the Air Force, an F-22 deployment is certainly on the strong side of the coin."

The F-22 went operational in 2005 but did not see combat until last fall when it was deployed in the opening night of anti-ISIS operations in Syria. Since then, the Air Force has regularly deployed the fighter jet in the region.


Twitter: @laraseligman

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