US could send new F-35 stealth fighters to Baltics

The United States Air Force (USAF) could deploy a unit of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to the Baltics for air-policing purposes once the new aircraft officially becomes operational this year, reported Estonia's ERR Thursday via The National Interest

"We would like to have F-35s, for example, do some Baltic air policing — 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," Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command told the US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) on Wednesday.

"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," he said. 

According to The National Interest magazine website, Carlisle said that the purpose of the F-35 deployments would be to send a message to potential adversaries such as Russia.

Meanwhile LETA reports that Latvia's Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis is to meet United States Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at the Lielvarde air base on Friday.

According to Defense Ministry spokeswoman Daina Ozoliņa, Bergmanis and James are to discuss the development and certification of the capabilities of the Lielvārde airbase, which would ultimately allow fighter jets to land.

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