The Pentagon Sends Predators to Latvia
Texas Air National Guard will fly patrols and train with NATO allies
Predator drones will soon be in the skies over Latvia. Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard will fly patrols and train with NATO allies as part of the Pentagon’s European Reassurance Initiative, or ERI.
With Russia continuing to covertly support rebels in eastern Ukraine, several NATO members are concerned Moscow could use a similar template in their countries. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — formerly parts of the Soviet Union — have been especially concerned.
Now, the 147th Reconnaissance Wing has sent its two pilotless spies to help calm those concerns according to an official press release the Pentagon’s top headquarters in Europe sent out on Aug. 31.
Two MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs) and approximately 70 Airmen from the 147th Reconnaissance Wing of the Texas Air National Guard based at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, deployed to Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia over the weekend. This temporary deployment of aircraft and personnel, which continues through mid-September, will test the unit’s ability to forward deploy RPAs and conduct air operations in an effort to help assure our Latvian allies, NATO allies and European partners of our commitment to regional security and stability.
The drones are just the latest rotation of combat aircraft to the region. Three days earlier, the U.S. Air Force announced that it was sending four F-22 stealth fighters to the continent for the first time … ever.
In addition to fighter jets already based in the United Kingdom and Italy, the flying branch has sent additional F-16s, A-10 ground attack planes and other warplanes to bases near Russia’s borders. The Pentagon has paid for many of these rotations with money specifically set aside for the ERI, as the press release further explained.
This deployment is funded by the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI); ERI has funded multiple events that include increased U.S. military presence in Europe and additional bi-lateral and multi-lateral training events.
Since the Kremlin seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014, American military officials have warned about Russia’s intentions. At a July Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford gave one of the most dire warnings.
My assessment today … is that Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security … If you want to talk about a nation that could pose an existential threat to the United States, I’d have to point to Russia. And if you look at their behavior, it’s nothing short of alarming.
With these concerns in mind, Washington will no doubt continue to send warplanes to Europe as a show of force. Now including Predator drones.