Air Force B-52s deploy to England for NATO exercises
By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 19, 2019
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The six B-52 Stratofortresses deployed to RAF Fairford will spend an undetermined amount of time at the base for training with U.S. forces and NATO allies, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said Tuesday.
The long-range strategic bombers with the 2nd Bomb Wing out of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., arrived at the British base last week along with about 600 airmen and their equipment.
The B-52s will operate out of Fairford, U.S. Air Forces in Europe — Air Forces Africa’s forward operating location for bombers.
“While here, the bombers will integrate into our U.S. and allied forces to demonstrate the strength of NATO operability of joint and combined arms teams,” Harrigian, USAFE’s deputy commander, told reporters.
Deployment of the bombers to Europe is part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which is aimed at reassuring NATO allies concerned about Russia’s military assertiveness. During the post-Cold War era, it was relatively rare to send long-range bombers to Europe, but recent tensions with Russia have prompted the Air Force to incorporate the aircraft into more alliance exercises.
Last year, three B1-B Lancers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to Fairford for a month in May for NATO exercises BALTOPS and Saber Strike. A B-52 from Barksdale arrived in September for Saber Strike.
And in May 2017, a flight of Stratofortresses from the 2nd Bomb Wing deployed to RAF Fairford for similar exercises across Europe.
Unlike in past years, the B-52s deployed to Europe this spring are slated to conduct training events simultaneously with B-52s deployed to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, in what U.S. European command said earlier this week was a “clear and visible demonstration of U.S. commitment to global allies and partners.”
Since 2004, the U.S. has rotated B-1, B-52 and B-2 long-range bombers out of Guam to conduct training missions in Asia as part of the INDOPACOM’s “continuous bomber presence.”
In recent weeks, the bombers have garnered headlines after flying a series of flights over the South China Sea.
EUCOM and INDOPACOM closely coordinated the cross-command training effort with U.S. Strategic Command, along with USAFE in Germany, Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii and Air Force Global Strike Command in Louisiana, EUCOM said.
“The ability to operate in the different environments at the same time and demonstrate global reach and the capacity to do that in a timeline that synchronizes our efforts is really a tremendous opportunity for our collective teams in both theaters,” Harrigian said.