Jul 29, 2014
F-15s needed in Europe to respond to Russia, Lakenheath commander says
“What an exciting time to be in Europe and an exciting time to be at NATO, what an exciting time to be around this wing,” said Col. Robert Novotny, an F-15 pilot, who has been on the job for less than a week. “You know we have a lot of challenges, we really do.”
U.S. fiscal austerity is squeezing military budgets, and Department of Defense officials are questioning whether Lakenheath should be closed or lose some of its fighter jet inventory. Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command and supreme allied commander Europe, revealed in June that the Defense Department was considering pulling some F-15s from Europe, and Lakenheath is the only F-15 base on the continent.
Novotny agreed reducing the F-15C Eagle fleet makes fiscal sense, although he considers it to be “the world’s greatest” fighter at air-to-air combat.
The problem is that the F-15C is a single-purpose plane, which could be replaced by the multirole F-16, F-22 or F-15E, he said.
Lakenheath aircraft have been part of NATO air policing missions over the Baltic states recently. The missions have been ramped up as part of an alliance effort to reassure allies in the east, who fear Russia’s intentions toward states once under Soviet domination. .