The U.S. Air Force deployed four B-52H Stratofortress aircraft to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) theater August 18-September 21, 2022 to conduct Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions with key allies and partners. The strategic bombers are assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base (AFB), North Dakota. The aircraft operated out of Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, England, which marks the second time this year B-52s from Minot have flown to RAF Fairford for a bomber task force mission.
BTF operations are routinely conducted across the European continent, underscoring NATO’s commitment to deterring adversary aggression towards the Alliance. The deployment of strategic bombers to the U.K. helps exercise RAF Fairford as United States Air Forces in Europe’s (USAFE) forward operating location for bombers.
“These Bomber Task Force missions across Europe [provided] a great opportunity to improve our combined readiness, promote interoperability. and demonstrate our global power projection alongside our allies,” General James Hecker, commander of USAFE-AFAFRICA, said in a statement. “Our ultimate strength in the European area of operations is a joint-force lethality — our ability to train and operate with our allies and partners as one layered, capable, and credible combat team.”
This bomber deployment kicked off with a visit to North Dakota by U.S. Navy Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, to personally observe the bombers’ departure on August 17. The admiral met with Minot AFB leaders to discuss the ‘Team Minot’ mission and also address all wing personnel during an “All Call” gathering, where he stressed the importance of the nuclear triad and the Minot’s vital contributions of strategic bombers and ICBMs.
“I came up from Omaha [Nebraska] to tell you and to make sure you know how important it is what you do for national defense,” Adm. Richard said during the all call. “I know it doesn’t seem like it at times, but I wanted to say if you’re involved with strategic deterrence or nuclear deterrence you have the most important, least glamorous job in the United States Department of Defense.”
As the bombers taxied for departure, Adm. Richard addressed the aircraft crews by radio, telling them, “Your job is to deter an attack on NATO and be ready to do anything that EUCOM needs to go do.”
During the transit over the Atlantic to the UK, the B-52s conducted aerial training and integration with Swedish Gripen and Norwegian F-35 Lightning II fighters over the Norwegian Sea west of Andøya in northern Norway before arriving at RAF Fairford.
“Over the past years, our specialized forces in the air and on the ground have cooperated on complex air operations with both American and Swedish forces,” said Major General Rolf Folland, chief of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. “Today, we operated side by side once again and demonstrated our solid training progression as we continue to add more elements to strengthen our collective capabilities.”
Norway, Sweden, and Finland have for years increased their defense cooperation with NATO, with special attention to their northern regions. With possible NATO membership of Sweden and Finland in the future, the allies’ stronghold on the Scandinavian Peninsula would be significantly enhanced.
“Witnessing our nation’s Gripen fighter aircraft flying alongside several of America’s most powerful military aircraft visually depicts the strength and solidarity of NATO,” Major General Carl-Johan Edström, commander of the Swedish Air Force, said in a statement. “These moments truly capture the military power that exists within NATO — as individual nations, but, more importantly, as a unified Alliance.”
During their month-long deployment to Fairford, the B-52s also conducted aerial refueling, fighter-bomber escort procedures, integration training, exercises, and operations with a variety of U.S. Air Force, partner and allied aircraft from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Great Britain, North Macedonia, Slovakia, Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Hungary, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, and Romania.
“The participation of such a diverse and capable array of allied aircraft demonstrates the Alliance’s ability to react to any threat to NATO nations across the Euro-Atlantic area,” said Air Marshal Johnny Stringer, deputy commander, Allied Air Command. “Allied air power operates freely and rapidly across SACEUR’s area of responsibility and is essential to ensuring freedom of access and the maintenance of collective security. Training like this displays the reach, interoperability and agility of our forces that continue to safeguard all NATO nations,” he concluded.
Occurring since 2018, these BTF rotations to Europe support the U.S. Department of Defense’s “Dynamic Force Employment” concept, by deploying long-range strategic bombers around the world from bases in the U.S. for indefinite, scalable periods.
BTF missions enhance the readiness, interoperability, and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe, and offer unique opportunities for allies and partners to strengthen collective deterrence, stability and security throughout the region.
“The BTF was most definitely a success,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Loucks, 23rd Bomb Squadron commander. “Our objective was to strengthen relations with NATO allies and partners and to demonstrate our shared pledge to global security and stability.”