US B-52s take part in Barents Sea mission, one diverted for mechanical problem

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress, of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., flies below a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, after receiving fuel during a mission in September 2020. B-52s flew in a show of force mission over the Barents Sea Dec. 3, but one plane had to be diverted because of safety problems.


By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2020

STUTTGART, Germany — A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber flew over the Barents Sea on Thursday in a show of force mission, but an additional bomber also intended to take part was forced to divert because of maintenance issues, the military said.

The B-52 Stratofortress bomber, based out of Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, joined up with Greek and Norwegian F-16s for the one-day mission, U.S. European Command said Friday.

“Upon completion of the missions, the aircraft and crew immediately returned to North Dakota,” EUCOM said. “Missions like this demonstrate America’s continual global strike and global reach capabilities through the employment of strategic bombers.”

The mission originally involved two bomber aircraft, but one aircraft safely diverted to RAF Fairford in England for a maintenance issue, EUCOM said.

The operation was part of the Air Force “Bomber Task Force” campaign, which involves sending the long-range bombers on periodic rotations to Europe and elsewhere. The B-52 is a nuclear and conventional heavy bomber that can fly at up to 50,000 feet.

In early September, three B-52s escorted by Ukrainian fighter planes flew into Ukrainian airspace, in the vicinity of Russian-occupied Crimea, according to commercial radar trackers that highlighted the flight path. A month earlier, a U.S. B-52 bomber’s maneuvers above the Black Sea were restricted after two Russian fighter planes flew in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner, “ U.S. military officials said at the time.

Russia frequently complains about U.S. military operations on its periphery, including in international airspace over the Barents Sea.

In May, the U.S. Navy sent four warships into the Barents Sea, marking the first time naval surface vessels had maneuvered in the Arctic waterway since the Cold War.

Twitter: @john_vandiver

A U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress and three Norwegian air force F-16 Fighting Falcons fly together toward the Barents Sea region in November 2019. B-52s flew in a show of force mission over the Barents Sea on Dec. 3, 2020, but one plane had to be diverted because of safety problems.