The U.S. Air Force deployed four B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bombers to the United Kingdom today.
The strategic bombers, belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, arrived at Royal Air Force (RAF) base Fairford on Thursday, the service announced on the same day.
The Air Force said the bomber deployment, known as Bomber Task Force mission, is part of a regularly scheduled U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) joint mission series.
Journalist Mikey Kay tweeted photos of the B-52s in flight on their way to the U.K. Kay indicated two B-52s are in Flight to RAF Fairford while another two are heading to Scotland first.
“Callsign ‘Hate 14’ – one of four B-52s caught by @JTWAviationImag transiting the Welsh/English Border heading to final destination RAF Fairford,” Kay tweeted. “From a close source, 2 of the B-52s headed to the ranges in Scotland first for training.”
“2. B-52s from 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AF Base, N. Dakota, en route RAF Fariford, England to execute long-planned Bomber Task Force mission, a regularly scheduled U.S. European Command and U.S. Strategic Command joint mission series,” Kay added.
The U.S. bombers flew with British Eurofighter Typhoons and Portuguese F-16 Falcon fighter jets, currently operating as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) Icelandic Air Policing mission. The U.S. bombers also integrated with the U.K.’s Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC) as part of a bilateral close air support training effort.
“With an ever-changing global security environment, it’s critical that our efforts with our allies and partners are unified,” said U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) commanding Gen. Jeff Harrigian. “We’re in Europe training and collaborating together, because consistent integration is how we strengthen our collective airpower.”
The B-52s will be stationed at RAF Fairford as part of a rotation where they will continue to integrate and train with partner and allied forces.
The Air Force said it has been conducting bomber rotations in Europe like this one since 2018. The service said such rotations improve “cooperation and operational capacity, capability and interoperability” and “reinforce the U.S. commitment to NATO allies and coalition partners to maintain our collective safety and sovereignty.”
This particular rotation of U.S. strategic bombers comes as around 100,000 Russian troops have amassed on the Russian border with Ukraine for months, raising concerns about a potential invasion.
While Ukraine is not a NATO ally, it has requested NATO membership and the U.S. and other NATO-allied nations have begun transferring hundreds of tons of defensive weapons systems to Ukraine and have called for Russia to withdraw from the region.
This week, Russia deployed six amphibious landing ships and an attack submarine into the Black Sea, raising the risk of a Russian seaborne assault if Russia does choose to invade Ukraine.