Four US Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornets were forward deployed on August 1 to Aviano Air Base, Italy, from where they were expected to operate for several weeks.
The aircraft involved comprised Bureau Numbers 164703 ‘WS-403,’ 165213 ‘WS-405,’ 165215 ‘WS-406’ and 165217 ‘WS-412.’ All were all from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 (VMFA-323) ‘Death Rattlers’ at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, although they flew in from Lask Air Base, Poland, where ten VMFA-323 Hornets had arrived on June 10 – see USMC VMFA-323 ‘Death Rattlers’ sent to Poland, August, p9. It is unclear whether any more of the VMFA-323 Hornets at Lask will also deploy to Aviano, but as of August 12, no further aircraft had arrived.
The reason for the forward deployment has not been announced officially, but it is no doubt related to the ongoing volatile situation in the region, which not only includes the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also recent renewed tensions between ethnic Serbs and the government in Kosovo. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO has increased deployments to its eastern flank in what the alliance is now referring to as an Air Shielding mission, providing an increased air and missile defence posture against any possible threats from Russia.