For the first time, two B-1B Lancer bombers conducted a Bomber Task Force mission in Europe and the Black Sea region with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums, and Turkish KC-135s on Friday.
The B-1s from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota also participated in integration and interoperability training with Polish F-16s and MiG-29s and Romanian F-16s and MiG-21s as well as Greek and North Macedonian aircraft over the Black Sea during the mission, according to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa.
“Bomber Task Force missions to Europe demonstrate commitment to our allies and partners all while providing a clear deterrence message to any adversary,” Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, said in an Air Force news release.
“The integration of our strategic bomber presence across Europe proves that the U.S., alongside any ally or partner, stands ready to deter, and if needed, can employ these capabilities together,” Harrigian said.
Aerial refueling support was provided by a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall in England, along with Turkish and U.S. KC-135s from Incirlik Air base in Turkey.
The Air Force sought to show it can deliver firepower around the world, even through mitigation efforts designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
The Air Force said that the bomber missions are designed to allow aircrew to become acquainted with air bases, airspace and operations at various geographic combatant commands, and also strengthens relationships with NATO allies.
“The integration and interoperability with our NATO Allies during these missions, be it aerial tanker support or fighter escorts, are indelible actions that show the Alliance is as strong as I've ever witnessed,” said Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. European Command commander.
The B-1 took a pause from missions in Europe from November 2018, up until earlier this month when two B-1s from Ellsworth conducted a Bomber Task Force mission with Danish forces over the Baltic region. Since then, all three Air Force bomber aircraft have conducted long-range missions to Europe from the U.S.