American B-2s deploy to Iceland for first bomber task force mission in months
Stars and Stripes August 16, 2023
Three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from a Missouri Air Force base have been sent to Iceland on a bomber task force mission, the first overseas deployment of the planes since a five-month safety pause ended in May, according to the Air Force.
It’s the military’s latest mission in the High North, which has taken on growing importance for the U.S. as it deals with Russia’s military aggressiveness abroad.
The planes, from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, and more than 150 American airmen arrived Sunday to train with other NATO allies, the Air Force said in a statement Monday.
Bomber task force missions are aimed at improving the Air Force’s ability to operate with allies and partners in unfamiliar locations. They’ve been held since 2018 and usually last between two and six weeks.
They demonstrate “the prowess of our armed forces in navigating today’s intricate and unpredictable global security terrain, with a focus on fostering stability, security and freedom across Europe,” Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, said in the statement.
The Air Force did not immediately reply to questions about how long the B-2s will remain in Iceland and which allies are participating in the training. Iceland has no military of its own but is a part of NATO.
The stealth bombers, which can carry conventional and nuclear weapons, are seen by experts as a means to deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine or against NATO members.
In December 2022, a B-2 caught fire at Whiteman Air Force Base after an emergency landing. No one was injured.
That followed another landing incident involving a B-2 at the base about a year earlier.
In the wake of those two episodes, the Spirit fleet was grounded to allow for safety inspections. All operational B-2 aircraft are hosted at Whiteman.
Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, commander of the 393rd Bomb Squadron, who is leading the deployment to Iceland, said it’s important to be back in the field.
“There is simply no substitute for the hands-on integration with our allies and partners that we’re able to accomplish during a (bomber task force) deployment like this one,” he said.