Two B-52 strategic bombers arrived at RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, Thursday to participate in various exercises this month, U.S. Strategic Command said. A third Minot bomber will deploy to Fairford later this week.

The long-range bombers, assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, will, for the third year in a row, work with U.S. and allied forces during exercises Baltic Operations 16, Saber Strike 16 and U.S. Africa Command's Just Hammer, a statement from STRATCOM said. They will also take part in the Berlin Air Show.

A third Minot bomber will deploy to Fairford later this week.

"Integrating strategic bombers with multinational operations in a variety of scenarios enhances the readiness and capability of U.S. and NATO military forces, which is vital to global security," said STRATCOM commander Adm. Cecil D. Haney. "Ensuring we can operate from strategic forward locations like RAF Fairford is integral to our collective defense capabilities and a more timely and coordinated response during crises."

Nations across Western Europe, stretching northward to the Baltics, will see a variety of exercises this summer. For example, approximately 60 aircraft — 27 of them U.S. Air Force — are scheduled to participate in the joint, maritime-focused BALTOPS exercise from June 3-19, in Estonia, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Poland and throughout the Baltic Sea region, according to U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa officials.

Countries close to the borders of Russia have become increasingly apprehensive since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. In addition to reassessing their military strategies, they've been begging the U.S. to send more forces, and, indeed, Russia's resurgence has forced Washington to rethink troop levels in Europe, eyeing a larger, permanent force that would help deter Russian aggression.

"I believe that, from a military perspective, we should sail and fly wherever we are allowed to by international law, and we should be strong, clear and consistent in our message in that regard," the new head of U.S. European Command, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, told lawmakers at his confirmation hearing in April. Asked whether the U.S. military should take a more aggressive stance toward Russia, Scaparrotti responded, "I would just say ... we should keep everything on the table."

In the meantime, the Stratofortress, which is capable of carrying and deploying nuclear weapons, has been one busy aircraft of late. In the Middle East, several B-52s from from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are currently using precision-guided bombs against the Islamic State group.

Last month, two of the Cold War-era bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, flew to Jordan to participate in exercise Eager Lion, and in February, three B-52 Stratofortress bombers and more than 200 airmen deployed to Spain for a military exercise led by Norway.

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East and Europe for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at

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