U.S. and NATO Moving More Planes Near Ukraine
F-16s and E-3s to patrol Polish and Romanian skies
The U.S. and NATO announced today that they’re both sending more warplanes to Ukraine’s borders. The deployments are in response to Russia’s so-far bloodless invasion of Crimea.
The Defense Department hasn’t decided yet how many more F-16s will go to Poland—but the DoD did say the extra jets will come from units already in Europe. The Air Force has available F-16 units in Germany and Italy.
NATO announced today that E-3 radar planes will soon start flying over Poland and Romania. The alliance has 17 E-3s based in Germany and manned by airmen from across Europe and the U.S.
The E-3’s main function is to detect enemy planes and then direct friendly fighters to intercept them. The modified Boeing 707’s powerful, top-mounted radar also has a limited ability to spot vehicles on the ground and ships at sea.
A NATO spokesperson said the planes will “enhance … situational awareness.” The alliance made it clear, however, that the E-3s will only fly over member states. That doesn’t include Ukraine proper.
Washington and Brussels have made largely symbolic military moves in response to the Russian invasion. The U.S. has shifted some fighter aircraft eastward and also positioned a single destroyer in the Black Sea and the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean.
While the additional forces undoubtedly reassure NATO’s eastern members, they aren’t likely to eject Moscow from Crimea. That said, the U.S. and NATO both have a range of military options. The U.S. alone has 75,000 troops and 200 aircraft in Europe.