U.S. F-22s land in Lithuania in show of force amid Russia tensions

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 27, 2016 10:00 AM

By Andrius Sytas

SIAULIAI AIR BASE, Lithuania (Reuters) - Two of the U.S. Air Force's most advanced jets landed in Lithuania for the first time on Wednesday in a show of force and support for a region worried by Russian military maneuvers.

The Baltic states and Washington have been riled by acts by Russian warplanes in the region in recent weeks, including one making "simulated attack passes" near a U.S. warship and another passing within 50 feet of a U.S. reconnaissance plane.

The two U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters landed in Romania earlier this week and F-22s last year visited Poland and Estonia, all counties concerned about Russian military ambitions.

The jets spent 20 minutes making three low-flying passes with aerial acrobatics over Lithuania's Siauliai air base before landing to be met by President Dalia Grybauskaite.

"Without singling out any neighbor, I would like to say that no one has any right to poke their noses into here," Grybauskaite told reporters.

"This is a demonstration that the United States is honoring its commitments and is ready to protect our region with all the most modern measures."

Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia are former parts of the Soviet Union which today are members of NATO. After Russian intervention in Ukraine, they asked the military alliance to permanently deploy up to 5,000 troops as a deterrent, a request that is still under consideration.

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In April, Russia's envoy to NATO accused the United States of trying to put pressure on Moscow by sailing a warship near the Kaliningrad enclave, sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.

F-22s, the newest U.S. fighter planes, are almost impossible to detect on radar and are so advanced that the U.S. Congress has banned Lockheed Martin from selling them abroad.

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Robin Pomeroy)