Over the past few weeks, the U.S. Air Force has been sending B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers to Europe to train with forward-deployed U.S. fighter jet squadrons and NATO allies.
The strategic bomber deployments come against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where the Russian military is struggling after more than six months of war.
B-52 Stratofortress Bombers Over Europe
Several B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers deployed to Europe with their crews and maintainers and worked with forward-deployed U.S. F-15 Strike Eagle and F-35 Lighting II fighter jets. In addition, the B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers worked with the Norwegian and Swedish air forces to increase their interoperability with allies and partners.
The 5th Bomb Wing’s B-52H Stratofortresses flew from Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, and landed in Royal Air Force Base Fairford, in the United Kingdom.
“These Bomber Task Force missions across Europe provide a great opportunity to improve our combined readiness, promote interoperability and demonstrate our global power projection alongside our Allies,” U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, the dual-hatted commander of U.S. Air Forces EUROPE-AFAFRICA and Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) commander, said in a press release.
“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,” Gen. Hecker added.
The B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers also worked with Swedish JAS-39 Gripen and Norwegian F-16 fighter jets.
With Sweden and Finland on the doorstep of NATO, such training exercises precipitate the necessary interoperability required for a joint force the size of NATO.
“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. These moments truly capture the military power that exists within NATO – as individual nations, but, more importantly, as a unified Alliance,” Major General Carl-Johan Edström, the commander of the Swedish Air Force, said about the drills.
Boring? Think Again
Such exercises run the danger of seeming banal to an outsider observer, especially with so much actual fighting going on in Ukraine. And yet such exercises are the cornerstone of effective combat operations in the event of a contingency.
The Russian Aerospace Forces have lost hundreds of fighter, attack, and transport aircraft and hundreds of attack and transport helicopters. One of the several reasons for these losses to numerically and technologically inferior adversary have to do with the lack or quality of training that the Russian crews have been getting. Russian pilots get to fly much less than their NATO counterparts every year in training sorties. As a result, in actual combat operations, the Russian Aerospace Forces can’t deploy large formations at the same time against multiple targets as NATO can.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive 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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
September 7, 2022 at 1:51 pm
On August 31, two of these US Air Force bombers headed for the Captieux [Landes in France] shooting range and testing ground [CTPE] to take part in an exercise involving the JTACs of the Parachute Commando of the ‘Air [CPA 20], the protection squadron of the 118 Mont-de-Marsan air base, Rafales from the 2/30 Normandie-Niemen fighter regiment, an MQ-9 Reaper drone from the 1/33 Belfort squadron and a C-135FR tanker aircraft. Operators from the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment [RPIMa] also participated.
September 7, 2022 at 11:04 pm
Now does anyone think that these 60-year-old design and slightly fewer years-in-building aerial lumber-busses are going to stand up to modern Russian or Chinese air defenses, ground or air? Only fools do. Look what the North Vietnamese did to them *50 years ago*—a notable number were lost. Should have largely been retired 35 years ago when the B-1s were built, and replaced by additional B-1s to boot. Like an extra hundred or so, with some also for the Navy for antiship warfare. Is it the influence of Air Force nostalgia and Boeing’s political pull that has so swayed the DOD to keep them? But right now what would have been even better is a longer-range medium reconaissance bomber with at least some stealth capability, impressive speed, and enhanced ECM and targeting ability, able to go in high or low and employ the best and most accurate standoff munitions the U.S. and Europe can produce. Add ability to quickly scramble and take off from and land on either more ‘rugged’ remote field bases or autobahn-level highways, and flexibility in operations would be further enhanced. A hundred or so scattered in hardened shelters or hidden in forests across Western/Central Europe would have the Russians far more concerned than the presence of these remaining ancient albatrosses the Air Force refuses to let go of.