Washington: The US is boosting its air power in Europe by redeploying a dozen A-10 'tankbuster' aircraft to the region, amid the conflict in Ukraine that has killed more than 5,400 people.
The US Air Force service's European Command said that 12 A-10 'Thunderbolts' would be deployed to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany by the end of this month as part of 'Operation Atlantic Resolve', which was formed after Russia's intervention in Ukraine.
"The Air Force is increasing rotational presence in Europe to reassure our allies and partner nations that our commitment to European security is a priority," Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, vice commander, United States Air Forces in Europe -- Air Forces Africa, said in a statement.
The Air Force said besides operating in Germany, the A- 10s will be forward deployed to other partner nations in Eastern Europe.
US forces have operated out of bases in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland, among others, in the past year.
The A-10, also known as the "Warthog," was designed in the 1970s to support ground troops in Europe against the tanks and armoured vehicles of the then-Soviet Union.
Though the jets can carry a variety of bombs and missiles, they are best known for their nose-mounted, seven- barrel 30 mm Gatling gun that can fire almost 4,000 rounds per minute, enough to quickly blow apart a tank.
Late last year, A-10s were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the US military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The dozen A-10s, along with 300 personnel from Davis- Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, are expected to be in Germany by the end of February, the Air Force said. The deployment is expected to last about six months.
A-10s have not been deployed to Europe since May 2013, when 21 A-10s that were stationed at Spangdahlem were removed, the CNN reported.
The US, which has warned it could begin supplying arms to Ukraine if the peace initiative failed, claimed yesterday it had evidence that the Russian military had deployed weaponry around Debeltseve - contrary to Moscow denials that it is playing any direct role in the conflict.
Officials say more than 5,400 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in April, but the UN believes the actual death toll to be much higher.