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    F-35 Assurance Baltic Round Robin



    Story by Tech. Sgt. Anthony Plyler 

    52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

    SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany –Two U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II aircraft, assigned to the Vermont Air National Guard’s 158th Fighter Wing, and a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, assigned to the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, currently operating out of Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, conducted low approach flights in the capital cities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, June 16, in an effort to highlight and celebrate a relationship that has spanned a century.

    Since February, hundreds of service members from multiple locations have deployed to Spangdahlem AB. Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing have stepped up to the challenge, remaining crucial to the U.S. Air Force’s ability to assure the presence of 5th generation fighter aircraft in the Baltics, and across the European theater.

    “Spangdahlem Air Base continues to be the launching point for regionally significant missions,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Leslie Hauck, 52nd Fighter Wing commander. “This demonstration of support to our Baltic Allies is only one of the many ways our U.S. Air Force units continue to fortify these strategic relationships, and I am proud of Saber Nation’s contribution through day-in and day-out support of our owned mission and our visiting forces.”

    While it’s commonplace for U.S. and Baltic military forces to strengthen long-established bonds through training and military-to-military engagements, 2022 marks a significant milestone.

    “This summer marks the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania,” emphasized Maj. Gen. Derek France, Director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, USAFE-AFAFRICA. “These flights along Europe’s Eastern Flank are a testament to the commitment of USAFE and our Air National Guard Airmen to Ally assurance and maintaining strong relationships in theater.”

    In Vilnius, Lithuania alone, dozens of spectators gathered at Cathedral Square in the heart of the city’s Old Town to witness the low approach flight. Domantas Jakaitis, a professional photographer from the region, said he was impressed by the event and that he wasn't the only one.

    "The formation flying stunned everyone in attendance. It showed us, Lithuanians, that the United States is with us and our neighbors. Events like these really make the relationship between our two countries stronger," said Jakaitis.

    Staff Sgt. Devin Bonnett, 158th Fighter Wing, fuels distribution supervisor, is currently deployed to Spangdahlem AB. The opportunity to support the real-world mission in Germany has been eye opening.

    "It really puts in perspective the direct impact that my teammates and I make. Having the privilege of being integrated into the 52nd fuels shop has been a great experience. Airmen from all over the world are working together to help support their mission," said Bonnett.

    USAFE-AFAFRICA aircraft routinely operate in the Baltics to enhance security and stability throughout the region. Pilots who fly the 5th generation stealth fighter are trained to avoid or deny detection; because of this, people are usually unaware that the aircraft is supporting or protecting them.

    "This lower altitude flight has the opposite purpose," said Lt. Col John MacRae, 134th Fighter Squadron commander. "We want to let everyone know that the ‘Green Mountain Boys’ are in the air above and proudly protecting NATO's Eastern flank and on this mission specifically, our great NATO Baltic partners."



    Date Taken: 06.16.2022
    Date Posted: 06.17.2022 15:40
    Story ID: 423292
    Location: VILNIUS, LT 

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