U.S. bombers carry out North Sea training missions with allies


U.S. Air Force bombers joined British warplanes for recent exercises over the North Sea.

The venerable B-52 Stratofortress planes from Minot Air Force Base’s 5th Bomb Wing in South Dakota joined the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron’s B-1B Lancers from Dyess Air Force Base in Texas on November 10, 2021, to support the Bomber Task Force Europe mission series, according to a news release from U.S. European Command (USEUCOM).

Aircraft from the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford station in England included Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s, F-15D Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles.

(Pictured: Airmen from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron pose at a Bomber Task Force news conference at RAF Fairford in England on October 20, 2021. The Airmen were temporarily stationed at Fairford as part of a BTF deployment.)

The Bomber Task Force Europe missions included conventional and precision-guided munitions to strike air, land and sea targets to achieve interoperability with allies.

“Our ability to strike air, land and sea targets with a coalition fighting force goes unmatched,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, in the news release.

“Combining unique bomber strike packages with ally and partner capabilities offered within the European theater builds a force, which can counter any threat to our collective safety and security.”

U.S. warplanes, crews and support personnel deploy for months of training during the Bomber Task Force (BTF) rotations. Many missions focus on new tactics, allowing for intercept and escort training between air forces, according to USEUCOM. The exercises also work on providing close air support and executing counter-maritime missions.

In August 2021, B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri were in Iceland for an integration exercise with NATO partners, including Norway, over the North Sea, according to Air Force Magazine.

Harrigian explained the importance of such missions at the Air, Space & Cyber Conference on September 21, 2021. He said the U.S. continues to do a “lot of work with the Norwegians continuing to refine our … tactics, techniques, and procedures and in terms of interoperability,” according to Air Force Magazine.

Harrigian emphasized that integrating communications during the North Sea training and on missions off the coast of the United Kingdom is crucial to success.

“(We) leverage some of the inherent U.K. capabilities to work, specifically, the interoperability … challenges that we know are out there,” he said, according to Air Force Magazine.

During the BTF rotations, the U.S. aircraft also joined NATO allies and partners throughout the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions. The swept-wing, supersonic B-1s also teamed up with the Norwegian F-35 Lightning II fighters in November 2021 on a targeting mission controlled by Norwegian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, according to USEUCOM.

“The more you practice it,” Harrigian said of the interoperability missions, “the better prepared we’ll be in the future.”