Spirits arrive in Portugal for historic bomber deployment

Three Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit strategic stealth bombers from the US Air Force’s (USAF’s) 509th Bomb Wing (BW) have deployed to Lajes Field on Terceira Island in the Azores, Portugal, as part of a Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission in Europe.

The aircraft – which are from Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri – arrived at the Portuguese base on March 16 and will use the installation as a staging area for several sorties relating to this BTF deployment. Following the arrival of the stealth bombers, airmen from the 509th BW conducted a hot-pit refuel of all three aircraft and a crew swap with the engines running, before the B-2s departed to continue a mission in the Arctic region.

B-2A Spirit [USAF/Staff Sgt Sadie Colbert]
Crew chiefs from the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conclude pre-flight checks on a Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, on March 16, 2021. This aircraft, along with two others, departed for Lajes Field in Portugal's Azores archipelago shortly after. USAF/Staff Sgt Sadie Colbert

During this sortie, the three B-2s conducted a long-range integration with two USAF-operated Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers off the coast of Iceland. The service states that this mission serves to refine the skills necessary to effectively fly night operations in a new environment.

Gen Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA), said: “These missions will add even more depth to this already historic Bomber Task Force iteration. B-2s joining the B-1s in theatre offers unique opportunities to advance our readiness as we continue to work with and learn from our allies.

“Bomber Task Force missions are critical to maintaining our global competitive edge. The importance of providing airmen the opportunity to train in unique environments can’t be overstated,” Harrigian added in a separate release.

B-2A Spirit [USAF/Tech Sgt Heather Salazar]
A B-2A Spirit stealth bomber taxis to depart Lajes Field on March 16, 2021. After arriving at the Portuguese air base, the aircraft received new crews and were hot pit refuelled before continuing a Bomber Task Force mission into the Arctic region. USAF/Tech Sgt Heather Salazar

BTF deployments are a regular occurrence in both the European and the Indo-Pacific theatres. These missions were established to enhance the training and readiness of bomber crews, allowing for them to respond to potential crises across the globe. It also provides an opportunity for geographical US combatant commands, such as USAFE-AFAFRICA, and regional allies and partners to integrate and train with USAF bombers in their own operational theatre.