Ämari-based F-22 Raptors on exercise over Lithuania

F-22 Raptor at Ämari Air Base.
F-22 Raptor at Ämari Air Base. Source: Estonian Air Force.

United States Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor tactical stealth fighters currently based at Ämari have been taking part in exercises in Baltic air space, flying South to Lithuania Wednesday, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports.

Ämari, around 40km southwest of Tallinn, is gearing itself up for summer exercises, and U.S. attack helicopters and jets from the Czech air force were also in evidence Wednesday, AK said.

U.S. Ambassador to Estonia George P. Kent told AK that: "This morning the pilots flew down to Lithuania, and we're working with Portuguese and Romanian pilots, and they hope perhaps tomorrow to be up in the air with British Typhoons, also operating out of Ämari."

"This is not the first time F-22s have visited Ämari; I think the first time was in 2015, and I anticipate they will also be back. And that's an issue for our two militaries to discuss, the timing and purpose of," Ambassador Kent added.

From the U.S.A.F. 94th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, the F-22's unit, Maj. Dan told AK: "For instance this morning, they were able to take of out of here and go to LT, and simulate escorting some strikers down on a mission to drop some simulated ordnance."

Spokesperson for the U.S. Army Engineering Corps Chris Bailey talked about improvements which have been made to Ämari base in recent years, with the help of U.S. investment.

"We have provided housing for people to carry out Baltic air policing, so we provided a dormitory so that they can reside on base," Bailey said.

"We constructed a maintenance hangar so that they can maintain aircraft outside of the elements in Estonia, we constructed two parking aprons – one is a hazardous cargo parking apron, so it allows them to unload hazardous cargo without being in close proximity to personnel, and we constructed a tactical fighter apron, which has 12 parking spaces for fighter aircraft," he continued.

This work started in 2015 and will soon be completed, at a cost of over €32 million.

The final facility to be constructed will be a 2,000 cubic-meter fuel depot.

The F-22s are usually based in Virginia and are currently on exercise in Poland, allowing them to arrive in the Baltic States also.

Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi) spokesperson Siim Verner Teder told ERR earlier in the week that the arrival of the F-22s: "Permits the rehearsal of cooperation with allied and Estonian air forces already based at Ämari, and familiarization with NATO's Eastern Flank airspace."

The planes make several training sorties per day, he added. Verner was unable to confirm the exact figure of F-22s currently at Ämari, though a tweet from Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur (see above) showed three, a figure which AK also reported.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is an all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft which has been in service since the mid-2000s.

Ämari hosts the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission, along with the base at Šiauliai, Lithuania, on a rotational basis. Currently Britain's RAF holds the mission, having taken over from the German Air Force last month.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: