Planes from RAF Mildenhall sent to support NATO effort in Ukraine as Russian invasion continues

  • A tanker taking off from RAF Mildenhall to support operations in Ukraine

US Air Force personnel and tankers based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk have been deployed to support operations in Ukraine, as the Russian invasion of the country continues.

Planes from 100th Air Refuelling Wing were seen leaving the airbase on Thursday morning, with a spokesman later confirming that they would be providing "critical refuelling support" for aircraft deployed to Eastern Europe.

They will be supporting six US Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft from the 34th Fighter Squadron which have been sent from their German base to locations in the Baltic Sea and Black Sea to support the NATO operation.

US president Joe Biden has already pledged new sanctions to punish Russia for the aggression the international community had expected for weeks, but could not prevent through diplomacy.

In a statement, RAF Mildenhall said: "US Air Force installations through Europe are postured to support a variety of NATO missions and contingency operations regarding Ukraine. 

"RAF Mildenhall and all of our British bases execute a variety of missions, which support the defence of Europe.

"RAF Mildenhall’s refuelling platforms are providing critical refuelling support to all aerial assets moving throughout the theatre in support of contingency and routine operations."

The first casualties have been reported by Ukraine after Russian troops moved into the country in the early hours of Thursday.

Explosions have been heard across Ukraine - in the capital Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Odesa - as President Zelenskyy cut diplomatic ties with Russia and declared martial law, while urging Ukrainians to remain calm and stay home.