Nineteen American in-flight refueling aircraft will be stationed at the Powidz Air Base in western Poland. According to the U.S. magazine Stars and Stripes, this is the latest sign that U.S. Armed Forces are shifting combat resources to strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.
The U.S. Air Force command in Europe confirmed that on March 10 of this year “American air tankers began working in their new main location in Poland.”
This was done as part of operation “Copper Arrow,” which demonstrated the efforts of the U.S. military command in Europe to “strengthen security on NATO’s eastern flank through forward deployed and stationed forces.”
“The cooperation of American air tankers with our NATO allies clearly shows how much we value our partnerships and how important it is to increase our interoperability,” said Colonel Timothy Foery, advisor to the U.S. Air Force Reserve Commander.
Foery noted that interoperability is evident when looking “at any photo of a KC-135 refueling a Polish F-16 or a KC-46 refueling a Finnish F/A-18.”
American air tankers KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender and the newest in the U.S. Air Force fleet, KC-46 Pegasus, could all be sent to the Powidz Air Base.
The aircraft currently stationed at the Spangdahlem base in Germany, will be transferred to the Powidz air base as Unit 1. As emphasized by the U.S. Air Force leadership, this relocation also demonstrates “the ability of U.S. command to quickly deploy large, credible combat forces and equipment throughout Europe.”
The tankers stationed in Powidz can be used for refueling combat aircraft, including the world’s most advanced fighter jet, the F-35A Lightning II, which extends the range of NATO air missions. Stars and Stripes notes that eight F-35 aircraft of the Dutch Air Force have been stationed in the Malbork air base in Poland for several months.
#Watch a @USAFReserve KC-46 Pegasus refuel a Finnish F/A-18s for the first time in Finland airspace, as part of a @HQUSAFEAFAF partnership exercise called Copper Arrow. #TogetherWeDeliver @FinnishAirForce pic.twitter.com/awMoN0axD1
— USTRANSCOM (@US_TRANSCOM) April 20, 2023
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the presence of U.S. forces in Europe has increased, with the number of U.S. military personnel on the continent growing from 80,000 to 100,000.
U.S. Ambassador to Warsaw Mark Brzezinski recently stated that over 10,000 American soldiers are in Poland.
“The U.S. military’s shift to the east is another example of the United States’ efforts to create a permanent presence in the former Warsaw Pact country, an important member of NATO, which has over 300 miles of border with Ukraine,” said reporter Jennifer Svan in Stars and Stripes.
A month ago, the United States officially established its first permanent base in Poland. The U.S. Army garrison in Poznań, located about 100 kilometers from Powidz, will support the V Corps of the Army, which oversees NATO missions in the east.