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US deploys B-1B bombers near Russia after Biden’s first phone call with Putin

A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer takes off at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 8, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
February 09, 2021

President Joe Biden ordered the first-ever deployment of B-1B Lancers to Norway last week, putting the bombers within potential striking range of Moscow.

The bomber deployment, announced on Feb. 2, comes a week after Biden had his first call as president, with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE) said the bomber crews from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, deployed to Orland Air Base, Norway and “are part of the advance team for scheduled missions that will execute in the coming weeks for a limited time.” According to USAFE, the bomber deployment is aimed at “improving interoperability with allies and partners across the European theater.”

The placement of the B-1B lancers puts them within 1,379 miles of Moscow. With a full combat payload, the bombers can reportedly fly up to 4,600 miles without in-air refueling. The bombers can fly with a combat payload of 75,000 pounds. Prior to the START treaty, the bombers were capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but were converted to conventional-only payloads between 2007 and 2011 with the addition of a welded metal sleeve and the removal of cable connectors.

“Operational readiness and our ability to support allies and partners and respond with speed is critical to combined success,” said USAFE commander Gen. Jeff Harrigian. “We value the enduring partnership we have with Norway and look forward to future opportunities to bolster our collective defense.”

Biden held his first phone call with Putin on Jan. 26. During their call, Biden reportedly challenged Putin on a range of issues to Russia, including support for Ukraine in ongoing fighting against Russia, reports Russia paid bounties to attack U.S. troops in Afghanistan and that it was behind a hack of potentially thousands of U.S. businesses and institutions who used SolarWinds software products.

According to a White House readout of their phone call, “President  Biden reaffirmed the United States’ firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. He also raised other matters of concern, including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 United States election, and the poisoning of Aleksey Navalny. President Biden made clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies.”

The Department of Defense has also raised concerns about recent Russian efforts to militarize the Arctic and to control access to the region.

Over the summer, then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said, “Recent Russian investments in the Arctic include a network of offensive air assets and coastal missile systems.” Barrett further shared a U.S. assessment that Russia sees the Arctic as increasingly important to its economy, with almost 25 percent of its gross domestic product coming from hydrocarbons north of the Arctic Circle.

This article was updated to clarify that the B-1B ended its ‘nuclear-capable’ status in 2011.