US Air Force photo/R. Nial Bradshaw
The US Air Force said on Friday that a handful of F-35s would head to Europe as part of an initiative to deter Russian aggression.
According to an Air Force statement, the "long-planned" deployment marks an "important milestone and natural progression of the F-35 program."
The F-35, with its stealth design and unparalleled information-sharing capabilities, represents a huge step up for US air power, as it can improve the performance of legacy planes it flies with.
Though Russia has long tried to develop counter-stealth technologies and has even taunted the US about its considerable air-defense capabilities, F-35 pilots who spoke to Business Insider said the new fighter would deliver unprecedented capabilities.
The Air Force is also looking to scope out the European theater for long-term deployments, which it says would take place in the early 2020s.