The resurgent Russian threat in Europe will cost the Air Force around $400 million for fiscal 2017, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Friday.

Citing Russia's resurgence on various fronts, James mentioned the service's share will supply increased deployments and exercises, including rotational aircraft.

"Everything we do is total force," James told reporters after an Air Force Association briefing in Arlington, Virginia. "There is a deployment plan in which we are targeting units to rotate at different times … but depending on real world conditions, that plan, of course, can change."

The push toward Europe since Russia's invasion into Ukraine in 2014 has bumped the President's European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) FY17 request to $3.4 billion — four times greater than what the administration asked Congress in 2016. Under that umbrella, the Air Force's component will be "around $350 to $400 million," James said.

Whether rotations and exercises "deter Russia or not," they provide reassurance to NATO and coalition partners at a time when Russia has said it plans to modernize its military, Gen. Frank Gorenc, the head of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa told Air Force Times in December.
On the books for the Air Force this year is its first F-15 deployment to Finland in coming months. Six fighter jets and around 100 airmen from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon National Guard, will visit the neighboring-Russia nation in May, the Guard told Air Force Times on Friday.

Between six and eight F-15Cs are expected to participate, according to Air Force Command Finland.

The Air Force may also expect an F-22 deployment, the second since four F-22s deployed to Germany, Poland and Estonia in 2015, which was the Raptor's first theater security package to Europe.

"For me, it was very important to introduce the F-22 to see how we could fly it in the airspace and how we could support it," Gorenc said. "Depending on their availability, we may or may not be lucky enough to get an F-22 [rotation], but certainly I'm working really hard to make [2016] a copy of [2015] with respect to that."

To mirror the budget request, the surge in military presence is expected to grow in the next two years even as the U.S. footprint across Europe has shrank to 67,000 service members.

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at

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