4 US B-52 bombers just got back from a month flying all around Europe - here's what they were up to
- US B-52 bombers and airmen deployed to the UK in October for Bomber Task Force 20-1.
- Bomber Task Force deployments are meant train US aircrews while reassuring partners and deterring foes.
- This rotation, which ended this week, was no different, as US bombers flew all over Europe and into the high north.
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Four US Air Force B-52 bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived in England with about 300 airmen on October 10 for a bomber task force deployment.The bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford to "conduct integration and interoperability training" with partners in the region and to "exercise Air Force Global Strike Command's ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location" in support of US Air Forces in Europe and US European Command.Advertisement
Amid heightened tensions with Russia after its 2014 seizure of Crimea, bomber task force exercises over Europe are also meant to reassure US partners and to be a deterrent to Moscow - this deployment, like others before it, also saw US bombers fly close to Russia in Eastern Europe and the high north.
Below, you can see what US airmen and bombers did during the month they were in Europe.
Bomber Task Force 20-1 was "part of a routine forward deployment of bomber aircraft in the European theater that demonstrates the US commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance," a US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman said.
BTF 20-1 missions kicked off a few days after the bombers landed in England.Advertisement
The exercises were not only for aircrews. Munitions specialists deployed with the task force also practiced assembling BDU-50s — inert, unguided bombs.
Maintainers from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, part of the 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit out of Barksdale, also provided routine and unscheduled maintenance for the B-52s to make sure they were ready at a moment's notice.Advertisement
"Back home, people are focused on their job and will occasionally help out here and there," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Crowe, a B-52 expediter with the 2nd AMXS.
When the bomber is scheduled to land somewhere that doesn't have maintenance support for B-52s, a maintainer will go along as a "flying crew chief" to make sure the aircraft arrives safely and is ready to fly once it lands.Advertisement
On October 21, the B-52s ventured east to the Black Sea, flying a 12-hour, extended-duration sortie to train with counterparts from Romania, Ukraine and Georgia.
A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.Advertisement
The final days of October saw the Barksdale B-52s conduct interoperability training with the French air force over France.
And with Polish F-16s over Poland.Advertisement
The B-52s also exercised with British Typhoon fighter jets, which practiced intercepting the bombers over the North Sea.
At the end of October, B-52s at Fairford joined US Strategic Command's Global Thunder 20, an annual command-and-control exercise to train for Stratcom-specific missions, with a focus on nuclear readiness.Advertisement
The B-52s also headed out over the Norwegian Sea to train with Norwegian F-16s.
BTF 20-1 started November with a change of scenery, heading to Saudi Arabia, flying with Saudi F-15s and US F-22 stealth fighters in support of US Central Command.Advertisement
By November 6, three B-52s were back in the high north, flying into the Arctic Circle over the Barents Sea with Norwegian F-16s and with US Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
One flight-tracker showed the B-52s flying into the Barents, turning south near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic and then flying west near the Kola Peninsula. Both are home to Russian military facilities, including the Northern Fleet's home base.Advertisement
The US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman declined to elaborate on where the B-52s flew while they were over the Barents.
Two days after returning from the Barents exercise, the B-52s took off from Fairford on their way back to Barksdale.Advertisement
BTF 20-1 finally concluded on November 13, after four weeks of continuous bomber presence in England that included flying 32 sorties with other bombers, tankers, and fighters; exercising with 13 other partner forces; and dropping 60 practice munitions in four countries.
BTF "rotations provide us with a consistent and near-continuous long-range weapon capability, and represent our ability to project air power around the globe," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces Europe-Africa.Advertisement
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