Allied Deterrence: F-35s Across Europe, NATO

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Allied Deterrence: F-35s Across Europe, NATO

Allied Deterrence: F-35s Across Europe, NATO

The growing number of F-35s in Europe is transforming NATO deterrence and interoperability.

F-35s are delivering advanced 5th Generation capabilities to NATO – from air, land and sea.

Strength, in Numbers

Last month, an international mix of F-35s joined forces during a first-ever NATO basic fighter maneuvering exercise in Germany, where U.S. Air Force maintainers serviced Norwegian F-35s for the first time.

Photo by Arnaud Chamberlin

In January, U.S. Air Force and British F-35s trained with allies during Exercise Steadfast Defender 24 – NATO’s largest exercise since the end of the Cold War.

In February, Norwegian F-35s returned to Iceland to support NATO’s air surveillance mission. In April, Norwegian F-35 pilots intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95MS bombers over the Barents and Norwegian Seas.

Photo by the Royal Norwegian Air Force

F-35 operators across Europe continue to tout how the aircraft is strengthening joint, allied deterrence.

Better, Together

F-35 interoperability has been on full display this year in Europe, where F-35s are proving themselves as unmatched force multipliers for NATO. 

In March, U.S. Marine Corps F-35s and a KC-130J conducted distributed aviation operations in Sweden, marking the first time an American F-35 has visited NATO’s newest member nation.

Danish F-35s meanwhile trained with Swedish Gripens for the first time.

Photo by the Swedish Air Force

Later that month, the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35s took over Benelux Air Policing duties from Dutch F-16s.

In April, American F-35s deployed to Poland to safeguard NATO’s Eastern Flank, including training with Polish F-16s. In Norway, U.S. and Norwegian crews conducted their first-ever unsupervised F-35 cross-service operation.

Photo by Bartosz Bera

In May, American and Dutch F-35s trained with F-16s and other allied aircraft over the Baltics – the largest such U.S.-led exercise in Europe to date.

The following month, Norwegian F-35s trained with an American B-52 bomber over Norway’s coast, alongside Swedish and Finnish fighters. 

Photo by Martin Mellquist

Italy also recently deployed a carrier strike group supporting F-35B Initial Operational Capability aboard ITS Cavour, flagship of the Italian Navy. Italian F-35s have supported numerous NATO exercises and missions over the past several years.

Future Fighters

The F-35’s presence in Europe is poised to grow. By the 2030s, more than 600 F-35s will be stationed in Europe.

This year, the Czech Republic officially joined the F-35 program, Poland’s first F-35 continued progressing on the production line, and Greece confirmed plans to procure F-35s.