Three B-52 Stratofortress bombers from RAF Fairford in England flew to Ukraine Friday to train with the nation’s military.
U.S. European Command said in a release that the mission provided the B-52s, which are deployed to England from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, “valuable midair training.” They also practiced working with Ukrainian fighters inside Ukraine’s airspace, and showed how aircraft such as the B-52 could deter Russian aggression, EUCOM said in the release.
The training flight is the latest in a series of missions the Air Force has flown over the past year in the tense area bordering Russia. In 2014, Russian forces occupied the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea and claimed it as part of Russia. The U.S. military in recent years has shifted its primary focus toward preparing for a possible conflict with major adversary nations such as China and Russia.
In May, a pair of B-1B Lancers flew to the Black Sea region to practice taking out ships with the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile. Last October, two B-52s also flew from Fairford to train with the militaries of Ukraine, Romania and Georgia, bordering the Black Sea.
And on Aug. 28, B-52s flew over all 30 NATO nations in an exercise meant to demonstrate the alliance’s continued solidarity. The U.S. later said two Russian military planes conducted an unsafe intercept of a B-52 over the Black Sea, repeatedly crossing the B-52′s nose within 100 feet, and violated NATO airspace in a separate incident.
The three B-52s taking part in Friday’s mission are among the six Stratofortresses that are currently deployed to RAF Fairford, near Gloucestershire, England.
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.