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US deploys nuke-capable B-52 bombers to UK

A Minot Air Force Base 5th Bomb Wing B-52H Stratofortress takes off during Red Flag-Nellis 22-1 on Jan. 25, 2022, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Michael A. Richmond)
August 19, 2022

Nuclear-capable U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses landed at Royal Air Force base Fairford in the United Kingdom on Thursday.

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U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) announced the bombers’ arrival in the U.K. The aircraft will use RAF Fairford to conduct Bomber Task Force missions throughout Europe.

“These Bomber Task Force missions across Europe provide a great opportunity to improve our combined readiness, promote interoperability and demonstrate our global power projection alongside our Allies,” said USAFE-AFAFRICA commander Gen. James Hecker.

B-52s have a range of 8,800 miles and can carry up to 70,000 pounds of nuclear or conventional weapons, according to an Air Force fact sheet. B-52s can carry bombs or air-launched cruise missiles.

These bombers departed from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.

The bomber task force also comes amid increased tensions between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia. NATO allies have bolstered their presence throughout Eastern Europe and sent weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting invading Russians.

Hecker, who also commands NATO’s Allied Air Command (AIRCOM), said, “Our ultimate strength in the European area of operations is a joint-force lethality – our ability to train and operate with our Allies and partners as one layered, capable and credible combat team.”

Norwegian F-35 and Swedish Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets also flew beside the B-52s over Norwegian territory on Thursday.

“Earlier today, Swedish and Norwegian fighter aircraft escorted B-52 bombers from @usairforce over Norwegian territory,” Norway’s military tweeted. “This is the first time we release photos showing the three nations together on a mission like this.”

“Over the past years, our specialized forces in the air and on the ground have cooperated on complex air operations with both American and Swedish forces,” said Royal Norwegian Air Force Maj. Gen. Rolf Folland, commander. “Today, we operated side by side once again and demonstrated our solid training progression as we continue to add more elements to strengthen our collective capabilities.”

The joint flight is one of the first since NATO began ratifying Sweden’s membership in the alliance.

“Witnessing our nation’s Gripen fighter aircraft flying alongside several of America’s most powerful military aircraft visually depicts the strength and solidarity of NATO,” Swedish Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Carl-Johan Edström said. “These moments truly capture the military power that exists within NATO – as individual nations, but, more importantly, as a unified Alliance.”

Finland, another Scandinavian country, is also working to join NATO.

Russian officials have raised opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the western alliance. In April Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, threatened Russia would deploy more nuclear forces in the nearby Baltic region. Medvedev also threatened more nuclear-armed Russian warships would operate near Sweden and Finland.

The U.S. Air Force previously deployed a bomber task force to England in February, before Russia invaded Ukraine. Another six B-52s flew to England in March after the invasion started.