US F-22 fighter jets land in Lithuania

Two F-22 fighter jets from US Air Force land at Lithuanian airbase to show support as region worries over Russian military manoeuvres

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter flies over the military air base in Siauliai, Lithuania, April 27, 2016.

Two of the US 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 manoeuvres.

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 US warship and another passing within 50 feet of a US reconnaissance plane.

The two US 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 neighbour, 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 honouring its commitments and is ready to protect our region with all the most modern measures."

Lithuania and its Baltic neighbours 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.

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 US fighter planes, are almost impossible to detect on radar and are so advanced that the US Congress has banned Lockheed Martin from selling them abroad.