At least two American B-52H Stratofortress bombers are deployed to RAF Fairford, England, for another rotation through Europe as the Russo-Ukrainian war hits the six-month mark.
The bombers arrived Aug. 18 from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, the Air Force said in a release the same day. This is the second B-52 deployment to Fairford so far this year, following a two-month trip that ended in April.
The jets, which can carry nuclear weapons, aim to deter Russian aggression toward Europe and improve cooperation with NATO forces.
“Our ultimate strength in the European area of operations is … our ability to train and operate with our allies and partners,” U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander Air Force Gen. James Hecker said.
On the way into England, B-52 crews practiced coordinated operations by flying alongside Norwegian and Swedish military aircraft. The jets also visited southeastern Europe on Monday, flying low over North Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro and Croatia in a show of commitment to NATO allies.
There’s been an uptick in Russian military activity around the Balkans and the Adriatic Sea, which offers strategically important access to the Mediterranean. The AP reported Monday that NATO scrambled its jets four times last week to escort Russian military aircraft away from allied airspace in Lithuania as well.
Russia opposed NATO’s decisions to admit North Macedonia in 2020 and Montenegro in 2017, and has threatened Finland and Sweden with military and political consequences if they join as well.
Lt. Col. Jovan Azmanovski, North Macedonia’s Army chief of staff, told a local broadcaster the flyover showed that “our skies are safe and our [NATO] membership is more than visible,” according to the Associated Press.
“The B-52 remains a universally recognized symbol of America’s assurances to our allies and partners,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Loucks, the bomber task force’s commander in the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron.
Bomber task force missions began in 2018 as an alternative to basing the jets more permanently at installations around the world. The bombers instead head overseas for a few months at a time and can spend the rest of the year in maintenance and training in the U.S.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.