4 US B-52 bombers just got back from a month flying all around Europe - here's what they were up to

Air Force B-52 bomber RAF TyphoonA US Air Force B-52 in formation with Royal Air Force Typhoon aircraft from 3 Squadron at RAF Coningsby over the North Sea, October 28, 2019.Cpl. Alex Scott/UK Ministry of Defense
  • 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.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

The Barksdale B-52s' deployment to RAF Fairford was their first since this spring, the spokeswoman said, and comes not long after a B-2 Spirit bomber task force deployment in August and September that saw the stealth bomber accomplish several firsts over Europe.

BTF 20-1 missions kicked off a few days after the bombers landed in England.

BTF 20-1 missions kicked off a few days after the bombers landed in England.

The exercises were not only for aircrews. Munitions specialists deployed with the task force also practiced assembling BDU-50s — inert, unguided bombs.

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.

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.

"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.

"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.

"Here, what seems to work is that everyone is all hands on deck. You may have an electronic countermeasures airman change an engine or an electrical environmental airman helping crew chiefs change brakes," Crowe added.

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.

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.

For a crew chief to qualify for that job, they must be at the top of their career field and complete hanging-harness training, a flight-equipment course, and go through the altitude chamber.

"We are essentially passengers on the aircraft, though we help the aircrew troubleshoot some things," said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Oliver, a communications navigations technician. "However, when we land, we hit the ground running. We service the jet and get it ready to fly again."

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.

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.

A few days later, B-52s from Fairford headed to the Baltic Sea, teaming up with Czech fighters for exercises over another European hotspot.

NATO's Baltic members, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, are between Russia proper and its Baltic Sea exclave, Kaliningrad, where ground and naval forces are based, as well as air-defense systems, ballistic missiles, and what are thought to be nuclear weapons.

The final days of October saw the Barksdale B-52s conduct interoperability training with the French air force over France.

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.

And with Polish F-16s over Poland.

The B-52s also exercised with British Typhoon fighter jets, which practiced intercepting the bombers over the North Sea.

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.

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.

The B-52s also headed out over the Norwegian Sea to train with Norwegian F-16s.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Russian navy and scientists recently mapped five new islands near Novaya Zemlya that were revealed by receding glacier ice.

6 NOV: USAF B52s 60-0024 60-0025 60-0028 BRIG01 02 & 03 departed Fairford at 0625z - Barents Sea mission pic.twitter.com/jWt0QWMe8e

— Mil Radar (@MIL_Radar) November 6, 2019

The US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman declined to elaborate on where the B-52s flew while they were over the Barents.

The US Air Forces Europe-Africa spokeswoman declined to elaborate on where the B-52s flew while they were over the Barents.

"The mission in the Barents Sea region served as an opportunity to integrate with our Norwegian allies to improve interoperability as well as act as a visible demonstration of the US capability of extended deterrence," the spokeswoman said.

Two days after returning from the Barents exercise, the B-52s took off from Fairford on their way back to Barksdale.

Two days after returning from the Barents exercise, the B-52s took off from Fairford on their way back to Barksdale.

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 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.

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.

"Being here and talking with [our allies and partner militaries] on their ranges makes us more lethal," said Lt. Col. John Baker, BTF commander and 96th Bomb Squadron commander.

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