Airmen flew two B-52H Stratofortresses on a 12-hour mission Monday from RAF Fairford in England to train with allies bordering the Black Sea.
The training flight, during which the bomber task force trained with allied and partner counterparts from Romania, Ukraine and Georgia, came at a time of heightened tensions. Russia continues to occupy the Crimean Peninsula and parts of eastern Ukraine, and has been forging closer ties with Turkey, especially amid the U.S. withdrawal from northern Syria.
The Air Force on Tuesday posted photographs and videos of aircrews flying the mission, and said in the captions that the exercise was “designed to familiarize aircrew with European airspace and reassure allies in the region.”
The bomber task force, part of the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, deployed to England Oct. 10 to conduct integration and interoperability training with European allies and partners, U.S. European Command said in a release Tuesday.
“The deployment enhances global stability and security while enabling units to become familiar with the U.S. Air Forces Europe-U.S. Air Forces Africa area of responsibility,” EUCOM said.
The deployed task force consists of four B-52s and about 350 airmen.
EUCOM said it would not confirm details of future operations to preserve operational security.
USAFE said in an email that the mission was not part of the European Deterrence Initiative, which includes air policing and surveillance activities, stationing fighter aircraft in Europe, and flying training exercises. Since 2014 — shortly after Russia’s Crimea invasion — the military has operated that initiative to deter further Russian aggression against its neighbors.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.