US to beef up air operations in Poland

Washington, March 11: The US is to deploy more F-16 fighter planes to Poland in the coming days and weeks, amid rising tensions in Ukraine’s Crimea, the Pentagon said Monday.

But no decision has been made on the exact number of F-16 fighter planes to be deployed in Poland, Xinhua quoted Pentagon spokesperson Steve Warren as saying.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke over phone Sunday with his Polish counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak, who thanked Hagel for looking at options for basing, Warren said.

US European Command would provide the aircraft once a decision is made, he added.

Currently, ten US Air Force personnel, part of the 52nd Fighter Wing based in Spangdahlem, Germany, are stationed at Lask Air Base in Poland, though there is no permanent jet presence there.

“What we are doing is reassuring our allies that we are there for them,” the spokesperson said. “This is an important time for us to make it crystal clear to all our allies and partners in the region that the United States of America stands by them.”

This is part of the US response to the crisis in Crimea, an autonomous republic of Ukraine, which broke out after Russia’s military intervention following the ouster of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych in late February.

IANS