B-52H conducts target training over the Black Sea

A US Air Force (USAF)-operated Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic heavy bomber from the 2nd Bomb Wing completed a simulated target training mission with five NATO allies over the Black Sea region on May 24.

The bomber is one of four to have forward deployed to Morón Air Base (AB), Spain, from Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB) in Louisiana on May 17, as part of the latest Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission to Europe. As part of the May 24 sortie, the B-52H operated in and around the international airspace over the Aegean and Black Seas, while integrating with five NATO allies.

B-52H departs Moron AB Spain May 24 2021 [USAF/2nd Lt Aileen Lauer]
Boeing B-52H Stratofortress - serial 60-0013 'LA' (c/n 464378), nicknamed 'Lucky 13' - departs Morón Air Base, Spain, to conduct a simulated target training mission with NATO allies over the Black Sea region on May 24, 2021. USAF/2nd Lt Aileen Lauer

During the mission, the USAF bomber – serial 60-0013 ‘LA’ (c/n 464378), nicknamed ‘Lucky 13’ – integrated with Saab JAS-39C/D Gripens from the Hungarian Air Force; Eurofighter TF/F-2000As from the Italian Air Force and Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29s from the Bulgarian Air Force. The aircraft also trained with Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons from the air arms of Greece and Romania during the sortie.

Gen Steven Basham, deputy commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA), said: “[The May 24] mission provided invaluable training for our airmen as they simulated a critical capability for our force and interoperability with our allies in the region. Executing these training scenarios ensures our team remains ready to respond to any threat at a moment’s notice.”

Bulgarian MiG-29 [USAF/Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez]
This Bulgarian Air Force-operated Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29 was one of several fighter types from five different NATO allies to integrate with the B-52H during the Bomber Task Force mission on May 24, 2021. USAF/Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez

In recent years, the USAF bomber triad – comprising the B-52H Stratofortress; Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit; and Rockwell B-1B Lancer – has frequently been deployed on BTF missions to the European and Indo-Pacific theatres. Along with Morón AB, these three platforms have become increasingly regular visitors to Europe in recent years, having also been operated from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK, and Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal.

The bomber triad has also been frequently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, for BTF missions in the Indo-Pacific theatre. This region has become an important political flashpoint of late, not least due to the rising tensions between the US and China, North Korea and Russia.