Defense giant Lockheed Martin ceased production of the F-22 stealth fighter in 2009, citing technical difficulties with, among other things, the plane’s oxygen supply system. But last week, the US House of Representatives announced that the Air Force could soon resume the program
"…In light of the growing perception that the US military is losing its technological edge to adversaries like Russia and China, Congress has expressed keen interest throughout this year’s budget season in restarting the line," Defense News reported.
The Pentagon is also making use of the F-22s currently in its possession. On Monday, The Air Force flew two of the fighters to Mihail Kogalniceanu air base in southeast Romania.
"Today, I would like to highlight this deployment as a demonstration of our promise to support Romania and the rest of our NATO allies," Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray said in an Air Force press release. "Romania is one of our strongest allies."
While Ray said the aircraft would be used to "defeat any possible threat," US Ambassador Hans G. Klemm went on to specify the concern.
"[The F-22s seek to improve] the defense of Europe, the defense of the North-Atlantic Alliance, to improve the security in South Eastern-Europe…as a result of the aggression by Russia that has brought so much instability to this part of the world over the past two or three years."
Romanian Air Force chief of staff Maj. Gen. Laurian Anastasof reiterated these concerns of a Russian boogeyman. In a hypothetical scenario, Anastasof said a Russian plane leaving Crimea could "trigger worries of the [NATO] alliance."
He added that any unidentified aircraft flying within 20 miles of Romanian airspace "obliges us to scramble planes up in the air, a scenario that had already happened four times this year."
Earlier this month, the Pentagon blamed Russian fighters for flying too close to the USS Donald Cook as it sailed through the Baltic Sea. While Russian envoy to NATO Alexander Grushko stressed that the US destroyer operating close to Russian waters represented a security threat, the incident has already been used to justify an increase in US defense spending.
Tensions are rapidly escalating between the US and Russia following last week two fly-bys when first a Russian Su-24 "buzzed" the US missile destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Baltic Sea, and just days later flew within 50 feet of a US recon plane also flying over the Baltic Sea, which some interpreted as a Russian warning to Poland. The U.S. quickly responded and complained vocally to Russia (even if Obama did not mention the incident during his phone call with Putin immediately following the incident).
Russia, in turn, promptly responded by accusing the United States last Wednesday of intimidation by sailing a U.S. naval destroyer close to Russia's border in the Baltics and warned that the Russian military would respond with "all necessary measures" to any future incidents.
Speaking after a meeting between NATO envoys and Russia, their first in almost two years, Moscow's ambassador to NATO said the April 11 maritime incident showed there could be no improvement in ties until the U.S.-led alliance withdrew from Russia's borders.
"This is about attempts to exercise military pressure on Russia," the envoy, Alexander Grushko, said. "We will take all necessary measures, precautions, to compensate for these attempts to use military force," he told reporters.
Then, immediately following Russia's abrupt response, it was the US' turn, and as we reported over the weekend, Barack Obama's nominee as the next NATO and U.S. European Command commander, Army Gen. Curtis M. "Mike" Scaparrotti , said on Thursday that Russia should be warned that its dangerous flybys of U.S. ships and planes could be met by force.
This is not the first time the US has sent its most modern stealth fighters to Europe:
This was, however, the largest and closest to Russia deployment yet of the multirole fighter to the continent, officials said, a move meant to "bolster the security of NATO allies and partners in Europe" while showcasing its flexibility to fly throughout the region as well as to deter from further "Russian aggression."
What it is really meant to do is send a signal to Russia following last week's "flybys" to not do it again. Naturally, Russia will again interpret this move as merely the latest provocation - after all the US would not be delighted if Russia was sending ultramodern fighter planes to a nation located a few hundred miles away from the maindland - thereby making the likelihood of another close encounter even greater.