By U.S. Strategic Command staff
In a mission to enhance NATO’s interoperability, readiness and ability to respond to potential threats, three U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers and approximately 300 support personnel deployed to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, United Kingdom, for two months earlier this year.
The strategic bombers, from the 5th Bomb Wing stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arrived at RAF Fairford on February 10 and conducted multiple short-duration flights originating from the U.K. These shorter missions provided opportunities to train and integrate with various NATO allies in the Artic, Central and Eastern European regions.
“Our bombers provide a unique deterrence capability to the NATO Alliance,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, then-NATO Allied Air Command and U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa Commander. “The partnerships we have created throughout these rotations better support our ability to employ a strategic force in theater whenever we’re called upon.”
The B-52s operated with aircraft assigned to NATO’s Icelandic air policing missions. They conducted bilateral and theater familiarization operations, as well as bomber intercept, escort and close air support training, and engine-running crew changes. They also integrated with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) and participated in NATO Allied Air Command bomber task force missions. In March, the B-52s also participated in this year’s “Cold Response” NATO exercise hosted by Norway, which included 30,000 troops and 200 aircraft from 27 countries.
The B-52s integrated with British and Norwegian F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters, the newest and most advanced platforms in the European theater. The bombers also trained with aircraft from other nations that included the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates.
During their deployment to Fairford, a B-52 flew a training mission to the U.S. Central Command region and integrated with U.S. F-22 Raptor fighters and aircraft from other partner nations in the Middle East, flying together over the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea. Before returning to the U.S., the B-52s flew a final mission over Europe focused on integrating with key NATO allies, which underscores NATO’s commitment to deterring adversary aggression toward the Alliance.
Once back on the west side of the Atlantic, the B-52s conducted homeland defense intercept training with North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) CF-18 Hornet aircraft over the Labrador Sea off the Canadian coast before returning to Minot AFB on April 15.
Occurring since 2018, these Bomber Task Force (BTF) rotations to Europe support the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Dynamic Force Employment” concept by deploying long-range strategic bombers around the world from bases in the U.S. for indefinite, scalable periods.
Given current world events, it’s imperative that the U.S. military maintain a persistent, visible presence, such as this B-52 bomber task force deployment, to demonstrate to allies and partners our commitment to maintaining stability and security around the world.
“With an ever-changing global security environment, it’s critical that our efforts with our allies and partners are unified,” Harrigian said. “We’re in Europe training and collaborating together, because consistent integration is how we strengthen our collective airpower.”
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