Air Force B-2 Spirit bombers arrived at Portugal’s Lajes Field Tuesday, the service said this week, joining the B-1 Lancer bombers that are flying short-notice missions to project a strong front out of Europe.

An undisclosed number of B-2s from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, “add even more depth” to bomber task force flights run by U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa, the organization’s commander, Gen. Jeff Harrigian, said in a release Wednesday.

Bomber task force missions in Europe intend to show strength in defense of the NATO alliance by making adversaries think twice about a potential attack. B-2s are stopping off at Lajes Field for a quick, “hot-pit refuel,” where airmen gas up the plane with its engines still running before heading out to fly sorties.

The bombers will “perform mission-essential tasks during several upcoming … sorties,” the Air Force said, without elaborating on what the tasks entail. It’s unclear how long the B-2s, which can carry nuclear or conventional weapons, will stay overseas.

“The B-2′s low-observable, or ‘stealth,’ characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most-valued, heavily defended targets while avoiding adversary detection, tracking, and engagement,” the Air Force said.

Spirit bombers deployed to Portugal for task force missions in March 2020 as well, and have recently flown task force missions out of the island of Diego Garcia.

The Air Force plans to send its bombers to a broader range of places for frequent task force deployments throughout the year, Gen. Tim Ray, the head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters last month. Bombers typically head to Diego Garcia, the United Kingdom, Spain and Guam, but will branch out to maintain a constant-yet-unpredictable presence in more areas of the world.

“What we did in [2020] is, I think, indicative of what we can sustain,” Ray said, according to Air Force Magazine. “We’re going to keep this pace up.”

Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.

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