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Pentagon: U.S. F-16 fighter jets to train with Poland near Ukraine

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that it is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets to engage in a joint-training exercise with Poland, which shares a large border with Ukraine.

Defense officials have not been forthcoming with details about the exact scope of the exercise. But Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters that the F-16s will deploy from Aviano Air Base in Italy and arrive at Lask Air Base in Poland by the end of this week.

Three hundred U.S. service personnel are also being sent to Poland as part of the exercise, according to a report earlier this week by Agence France-Presse. The news agency cited a Polish defense ministry spokesman as saying the exercise had originally been planned to be smaller, but was recently expanded at Poland's request because of the "tense political situation" in Ukraine.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reportedly agreed to the deployment during a March 9 phone conversation with Poland's Minister of National Defense Tomasz Siemoniak.

One Wednesday, Col. Warren said only that the U.S. is sending the jets to demonstrate that its commitment to its allies "are credible and remain in force."

The deployment follows an earlier announcement that Washington is also sending four F-15 planes to nearby Lithuania to strengthen surveillance in the airspace around the Baltic region.

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