Four US Air Force (USAF) B-52H Stratofortress bombers from the 5th Bomb Wing (BW) at Minot Air Force Base (AFB), North Dakota, arrived at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, UK, on August 18.
The bombers, with a mission to deploy to the UK and operate within Europe as a scheduled Bomber Task Force (BTF) under the command of US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) left Minot AFB during the early hours of Thursday morning, they transited the Atlantic with callsigns 'Hyla 11-14'.
'Hyla' flight received support from multiple air-to-air refuelling tankers during the flight over to Europe. 'Abbot' flight refuelled the bombers in the early stages of the flight from the US, and a flight of four KC-135s from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk met the bombers as they approached UK airspace just north of Scotland. These tankers were 'LAGER 580-583' comprising serials: 58-0100, 60-0324, 60-0335 and 63-8878.
Landing first at RAF Fairford at 1216hrs (local time) was serial 60-0023, this B-52H is the 23rd Bomb Squadron commanding officer’s aircraft nicknamed 'Bomber Barons'. A couple hours later, the 5th BW commanding officer’s aircraft, serial 60-0005 'Warbird', touched down on UK soil, followed by serial 60-0034 'Wise Guy', which landed at approximately 1520hrs.
'Wise Guy' is a rather interesting airframe, as it is one of only two B-52 bombers that has been resurrected out of the USAF’s 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), commonly known as 'The Boneyard' and restored back into front line operational service. Less than ten minutes later, the final B-52H (serial 60-0026 'Dakota Avenger') landed at Fairford. All airmen, aircraft and support were now on the deck and ready for another USAFE BTF mission.
Prior to landing in the UK, multiple B-52s carried out aerial integration missions with coalition partners in Europe to execute rapid global power projection. The bombers joined two Swedish Air Force JAS 39C Gripens and two Royal Norwegian Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs west of Andøya, North Norway. One of the B-52s performed training with the Norwegian Army at Setermoen firing range.
The commander of the Swedish Air Force, Maj Gen Carl-Johan Edström said: “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.”
Augmenting the Swedish commanders comment, USAF Gen James Hecker, USAFE-AFAFRICA and AIRCOM commander said: “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.
“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.”