Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine boosted F-35 sales as NATO is “stepping up to the plate” to deter Russia, according to the Air Force’s top Europe commander. Allied nations know that the U.S. is focused on China, said Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa. So when the U.S. decided to move F-16s from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany to Kadena Air Base in Japan, it didn’t come as a surprise to NATO, he said.
The general has been telling NATO “all along” that “they have to become less dependent on us and more dependent upon themselves, so we’re on that road going forward.”
And NATO is stepping up to the plate, Hecker said at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event on Wednesday. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, four countries committed to buying F-35s, showing the “exact opposite” effect that Putin intended, Hecker said.
Finland, Switzerland, and Germany all signed Letters of Offer and Acceptance for F-35s in the last year. Canada announced its formal procurement agreement in January.
By 2034, more than 600 F-35s will be operating in Europe, Hecker said, and “out of those 600, there’s only going to be about 50 that are U.S.—so over 90 percent are going to be our partners and allies.” Sweden and Finland’s bid to join NATO will bring a lot to the fight, Hecker added, pointing to the former’s plan to upgrade to Gripen E/Fs and the latter’s effort to buy 60 F-35s. Läs artikel