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Ukraine Crisis: B-52 Bombers, F-15 and F-16 Fighters Move Closer to Russia

Airmen from the 96th Bomb Sqaudron load gear onto a B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 13, 2020. The crew took part in a NATO crossover exercise designed to increase interoperability with NATO mission partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman)

With a Russian invasion of Ukraine expected to start at any moment now, the U.S. military has been bolstering its presence in Europe. The Pentagon has already deployed thousands of additional troops on the Continent. But in the latest round of reinforcements, the Pentagon has sent nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, existing F-16 and F-15 fighter squadrons in Europe have been forward-basing in Eastern Europe to be closer to the place of tension.

Bombers Over Europe, Watching Ukraine

On Thursday, B-52 bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arrived in the United Kingdom as part of a scheduled bomber rotation. The strategic bombers will conduct interoperability drills with other NATO air forces while remaining on standby should a potential conflict in Ukraine spillover to NATO countries.

“With an ever-changing global security environment, it’s critical that our efforts with our allies and partners are unified. We’re in Europe training and collaborating together, because consistent integration is how we strengthen our collective airpower,” General Jeff Harrigian, the commanding officer of U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, said in a press release.

Since 2018, the Pentagon has been conducting bomber rotation throughout Europe to reassure allies and deter Russia. The idea is that in the event of a conflict between NATO and Russia, the B-52 bombers would be ready to strike in case they are asked to.

Fighter Jets Over Europe, Watching Ukraine

In addition to the B-52 deployment, the Pentagon has repositioned fighter jets from the United Kingdom and Germany to Poland and Romania.

F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the 48th Fighter Winger, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, U.K., deployed to Poland to work with the host country’s and Denmark’s F-16 fighter jets. They will conduct air policing missions on NATO’s eastern flank.

“The deployment of U.S. F-15s to Poland elevates the collective defense capabilities on NATO’s Eastern flank and the enhanced Air Policing mission. The commitment of U.S. aircraft and Airmen demonstrates the solidarity of the Alliance, as we continue to work together in unity to execute our defensive mission,” Harrigian added.

In addition, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, flew to Romania for training and air policing in the Black Sea.

“The F-16 aircraft will significantly enhance NATO’s deterrence posture in NATO’s south-east region and provide additional responsiveness for the enhanced air policing mission. Allied Air Forces are standing shoulder to shoulder to provide a robust collective defense and deliver constant vigilance across NATO airspace,” Lieutenant General Pascal Delerce, NATO’s Allied Air Command deputy commander, stated.

The aircraft deployments come at a moment when Russian forces could invade at any moment. The State Department has begun evacuating American diplomats from Ukraine, while President Joe Biden has urged U.S. citizens to leave the country.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.