The U.S. Air Force’s fleet of long-range bombers is the smallest it has been since the end of the Cold War. But while it might be spread thinner than ever, the Air Force last week showed it is still able to accomplish its mission.
Last Thursday, a pair of U.S. B-52 bombers flying out of Guam rounded the southern part of the Philippines. Their flight came just days after China, which claims nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, attempted a blockade of Filipino ships, preventing them from resupplying a marine outpost on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal. The resulting collisions damaged a supply ship and a Philippine Coast Guard escort and sparked a diplomatic uproar in Manila.
Nuclear-Capable Bombers in European Skies
Halfway around the world, another B-52 bomber flew from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. The aircraft arrived in Europe to support NATO’s Steadfast Noon, an annual exercise designed to enhance interoperability, communication, and readiness among member-states.
The participation of the B-52 exemplifies the U.S. Air Force’s crucial role in NATO’s mission to safeguard global peace and security, NATO announced.
A total of 60 aircraft from 13 allied countries took part in the exercises, with training flights conducted over Italy, Croatia, and the Mediterranean Sea. In addition to the B-52 bomber, it involved fighter aircraft capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The exercise did not involve any live bombs.
Moreover, though the exercise was not linked to current world events, and the bulk of the training took place at least 600 miles from Russian borders, it was meant to remind Moscow of NATO’s nuclear capabilities.
“It sends a clear message that NATO will protect and defend all allies,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
B-1s Also on the Move
Air Force B-1B bombers currently deployed to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, undertook a comprehensive Bomber Task Force mission, collaborating closely over Eastern Europe with fighter jets from NATO allies Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Those same aircraft conducted a flight over Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase, signifying unwavering support for an alliance member on NATO’s eastern flank.
“[The recent] Bomber Task Force mission serves as another testament to our unwavering dedication to Allies and partners, showcasing our collective capacity to strategize, execute, and synchronize seamlessly together,” said Gen. James Hecker, commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Air Forces in Africa and NATO Allied Air Command.
U.S. Air Force Europe – Air Force Africa also posted images on X of the B-1s conducting a joint exercise with Swedish aircraft.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.