Photo Report : USAF B-52 Bomber Task Force deployment Europe 2019
USAF B-52 Bomber Task Force deployment Europe 2019
In Match 2019 six USAF B-52H Stratofortress bombers deployed to RAF Fairford, UK. Reports and photos by Renzo Del Bianco.
From Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th of March 2019, six U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers arrived at RAF Fairford, Glouchestershire, United Kingdom. The aircraft belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, represented the largest deployment in Europe of a single bomber detachment, since the 2003 deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom when 17 B-52s and more than 900 personnel of the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot AFB, North Dakota, were deployed to RAF Fairford.
The importance of this deployment was highlighted at the press conference held Tuesday, March 19, at RAF Fairford. The U. S. Air Force’s principal spokesperson for the conference was Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, Deputy Commander United States Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa. The media attending the conference also had the opportunity to hear from the 501st Combat Support Wing Vice-Commander, Col. Ron Cheatham, and from the Bomber Task Force in Europe Commander, Lt. Col. Mike Esposito. As principal spokesperson, Lt. Gen. Harrigian addressed the media: “[...] today is an important day as we welcome the B-52 strategic bomber back to the European theater. This task force of six B-52s and about two-hundreds supporting personnel bring a unique and highly potent air power capability to Europe with our NATO allies and European partners. […] Bomber deployments and operations enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to contingencies across the globe. They familiarize our aircrew with air bases and operations in different geographic combat commands and validate our, always ready, global strike capability.“
The complete account of the media day speeches is available on the DVIDS website of the U.S. DOD.
RAF Fairford is the only U.S. Air Forces Europe forward operating location for the bombers. The U.S. 420th Air Base Squadron / 501st Combat Support Wing is the resident unit at RAF Fairford to support bomber deployments to Europe. The task of the unit is to provide unparalleled mission support to receive, bed down, and sustain the deployed forces to enable them to conduct a full spectrum of flying operations.
A deployment like this helps the resident 420th Air Base Squadron to train in hosting a large strategic bomber component, as well as, enabling the deployed personnel to implement operating procedures in the European and northern African theater, to improve bomber interoperability with joint and allied forces. As Lt. Col. Esposito explained: “there’s a lot of stuff we don’t get to do at home that we learned over here. The procedures are different, the airspaces are different, and the things we do are honestly different when we train in the States. […] coming out here and getting to integrate with so many different European partners and flying over so many different places is how we can really practice the way we will fight in the future.”
During the deployment, training missions were flown over the Baltic Sea, Norwegian Sea, Mediterranean Sea, and many countries in Europe, including Romania, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Greece, Poland, Netherlands and Iceland, amounting to about 40 sorties. Daily operations involved several of the deployed B-52s and sometimes flights lasted 24-hours to demonstrate ability in maintaining sustained combat capacity for a prolonged duration.
NATO Enhanced Forward Presence units in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had been involved in interoperability training with the bombers. In particular, the B-52s trained with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), attached to the multinational battlegroups. Training included the release of inert munitions as part of Close Air Support training operations with the JTACs. Further CAS training missions were conducted at the Cincu Range in Romania as well as in the Netherlands at the Vliehors Range, where inert munitions were also deployed.
The B-52H Stratofortresses also conducted flights to Iceland to carry out training with Italian Air Force F-2000 Typhoon fighter jets, that were on rotational deployment there for the NATO Icelandic Air Surveillance mission. A B-52H was also involved in the annual training exercise African Lion, which took place in Morocco and Tunisia, led by U. S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa.
The 2nd Bomb Wing is the largest bomber wing of the Air Force Global Strike Command and part of the Eighth Air Force. More than 8,500 active-duty servicemen, Air Force Reserve members, and civilians make up Barksdale’s workforce. The mission is to provide the United States with combat-ready airmen and B-52s for the nuclear deterrence, global strike, and combat support operations. The 2nd BW conducts its mission assigned with three B-52H squadrons, the 11th Bomb Squadron “Mister Jiggs” (yellow tail color), which is the training squadron for all B-52 operators, the 20th Bomb Squadron “Buccaneers” (blue tail color) and the 96th Bomb Squadron “Red Devils” (red tail color). Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, has been the home base of the Wing since 1963, when the unit was moved from Chatham AFB, Georgia, to assume the mission, existing B-52Fs, and personnel of the 4238th Strategic Wing. B-52 operations at Barksdale can be traced to 1 March 1958 when SAC established the 4238th SW..
The short-term European deployment of the six B-52Hs officially ended on Thursday, April 11, when aircraft and personnel had returned at Barksdale AFB.
Report and photos by Renzo Del Bianco ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 31 May 2019