The Pentagon has been quite vocal in announcing the critical importance of its ongoing efforts to avoid escalation with Russia and face what many consider a possible World War III … a confrontation between NATO and Russia.
NATO & F-35s
At the same time, the Pentagon’s readiness and deterrence posture is also clearly in full force, meaning the US military continues to take decisive steps to ensure it is fully ready to respond quickly and forcefully should it need to defend NATO territory. The preparations include a wide range of activities to include the forward positioning of F-35s in Eastern Europe, training exercises in Poland with the US Army and US Marines, and a strong US presence in the Mediterranean and Baltic Sea.
“At sea, we have over 15,000 sailors in the Med and the Baltics on 24 surface combatants and four subs, up from six surface combatants back in the fall. In the air, we currently have 12 fighter squadrons and two combat aviation brigades. And on the ground, we have two corps, two divisions and six brigade combat teams, along with a variety of enablers,” Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters following a Ukraine summit.
Milley further elaborated by explaining the sizable jump in US forces along NATO’s Eastern Flank, rising from 78,000 last Fall to roughly 100,000.
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Available 5th-generation aircraft, for instance, could prove decisive almost immediately should NATO be compelled to defend its territory or launch military operations in defense of Poland or the Baltics. Russia is known to operate only a handful of Su-57 stealth fighter jets, whereas the US Air Force alone operates several hundred F-35s.
A large-scale F-35 operation launched from Poland, Germany or other parts of Eastern Europe might be positioned to quickly achieve air superiority and therefore be in position to destroy any advancing Russian armored units. In this respect, mere “presence” alone when it comes to F-35s seems to offer a considerable deterrent, as well as a clear operational ability to quickly impact a potential conflict situation.
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Maritime presence could prove decisive as well, given that warships and submarines in the Black Sea or Baltics Sea might be positioned to counterattack. The Tomahawk missile, for example, can travel 900 miles to destroy inland targets from surface ships and submarines, indicating that a substantial amount of firepower likely operates within striking range of many high-value Russian targets.
Therefore, having a ready contingent of air and naval assets within immediate attack range does seem to position NATO such that it could deliver a massive and highly impactful series of strikes and counterattacks against Russia in the event conflict erupts.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.