Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase in Romania hosted two US F-22 Raptor jets along with a single example of a KC-135 flying tanker. The jets come from the 95th Fighter Squadron, based in Tyndall, Florida. Maintenance has been provided by ca. 20 soldiers of that unit. The said fighter aircraft came to Romania from the British RAF Lakenheath airbase.
Arrival of the US F-22 jets was partially financed with the use of the funds allocated to the European Reassurance Initiative, a programme implemented by the US Armed Forces, in order to assist the European NATO member states and NATO partner nations in bolstering their defence capabilities, with a particular emphasis placed on Central and Eastern Europe. Within the framework of that initiative, the US units involved in training operations and exercises maintain their presence in the aforementioned region.
During his speech, following the arrival of Raptors, Gen. Lt. Timothy Ray, commander of the 3rd Air Force unit based in Ramstein recalled the F-22A capability to be “rapidly deployed”, noting that Raptor is also able to establish air superiority quickly, away from its permanent base, and that the jet can also defeat any adversary.
The US Raptors staying in Romania are also a part of the Rapid Raptor programme which assumes that rapid deployment of four such airframes, together with the related personnel, to any allied airfield is possible, even if such airfield is not prepared to host the stealth jets, as it happens in case of the Lakenheath and Mihail Kogalnicanu airbases.
This was noted by General Frank Gorenc, commander of the USAF in Europe and Africa, in his statement, referring to a successful readiness test of the NATO infrastructure. Gorenc also referred to high level of training of the aircraft maintenance crews, both the American, as well as the local ones.
F-22 Raptors came to Europe on 11th April 2016, this is the second visit made by the US fighters here. First, the jets came to the German Spangdahlem base in August 2015. Deployment of these jets in Mid-Eastern Europe may be interpreted as a signal for Russia, related to the Ukrainian crisis and potential threat for the NATO member states.