Don’t Believe the Rumors—F-22s Are Not Deploying to Ukraine

Stealth fighters simply en route to Mideast

According to some rumors, the six U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters that left the U.S. in late March were headed to a base in or near Ukraine as part of America’s response to Russia’s annexation of the strategic Crimean peninsula.

In fact, the radar-evading warplanes were simply heading to the Middle East for a routine deployment.

On March 30, six F-22 from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia made a stopover at Moron air base in Spain. Eight Raptors—two were spares that subsequently turned back—had departed the U.S. on March 29 under the call sign “Mazda 01” and had crossed the Atlantic Ocean alongside two accompanying KC-10 tankers, call signs “Gold 51” and “Gold 52.”

The KC-10s hailed from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. There was also a spare tanker, a KC-135R from Pease Air National Guard Base, New Hampshire that flew under the call sign “Gold 53.”

Amateur UHF and VHF listeners on the U.S. East Coast monitored the F-22 formation all the way to Spain.

The news that six Raptors were crossing the Atlantic fueled rumors that the stealth jets could be deploying as a further U.S. response to the Russian invasion of Crimea.

However, it quickly turned out that the F-22s were just involved in the usual rotation to Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, after the stop in Spain, the six aircraft headed to the Persian Gulf. Raptors have maintained a constant presence in the Gulf for some years.

Anyway, a deployment in Poland, Turkey or Romania would be no more than a symbolic move. The F-22s could only deter Russia’s aircraft from supporting ground operations and prevent them from operating undisturbed in the skies over Crimea or eastern Ukraine.

To truly roll back Russian gains, the Pentagon would have to commit much heavier forces.

Thanks to Kyle Fleming for providing additional details about the deployment as well as audio recordings of both Mazda 01 and Gold 51 flights. Medium has an app! Sign up for a daily War is Boring email update here. Subscribe to WIB’s RSS feed here and follow the main page here.