US B-2 stealth bombers and British F-35 fighters train together for first time
By CHRISTOPHER DENNIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 30, 2019
FAIRFORD, England — U.S. B-2 stealth bombers trained with British F-35 Lightning II jets this week, marking the first time the Air Force aircraft have operated with those fighters from an allied nation, officials said Friday.
The visit of the three B-2 Spirit bombers from the 509th Bomber Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is part of the service’s effort to stage more short strategic bomber rotations in Europe and elsewhere, and to improve response times in case of a crisis.
“This training demonstrates U.S. support to NATO and ... also enhances the U.S.’s ability to integrate bombers with fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the F-35,” an Air Force statement said.
There has been at least one Air Force bomber rotation in Europe every year since 2014, when Russian forces annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. RAF Fairford routinely hosts those bomber deployments.
“Working alongside international fifth generation aircraft provides unique training opportunities for us, bolsters our integration capabilities and showcases the commitment we have to our NATO alliance,” said Lt. Col. Robert Schoeneberg, the B-2 task force commander.
The B-2s have trained with the F-35s since arriving in England on Tuesday, Schoeneberg told reporters at a ceremony Friday.
Britain’s air force and navy have ordered 48 F-35s and plan to acquire a total of 138 over the life of the program.