by Senior Airman Malia Jenkins
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
6/19/2015 - ROYAL AIR FORCE FAIRFORD, England -- Air Force Global Strike Command deployed bombers to the European area of operations for more than two weeks to work with the United States' allies and partners in various exercises and training missions.
Three B-52H Stratofortresses from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, two B-2 Spirits from Whiteman AFB, and over 300 men and women from around the command deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford, England, during the first week of June to support BALTOPS 15 and Saber Strike 15.
The B-2s flew two missions to RAF Fairford conducting engine-running crew changes and hot-pit refueling to validate the ability of air and ground crews to extend the mission capability of the aircraft in a forward deployed location.
"Flying the B-2 here solidifies the alliance we have with several of our allies, the commitment we provide, and the power we demonstrate, which we were able to showcase on this platform with refueling the aircraft in minimal time," said Chief Master Sgt. Craig Smith, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron low observable superintendent.
While forward deployed to RAF Fairford, the B-52s demonstrated the ability of AFGSC assets to project air power anywhere and anytime. They conducted simulated air strikes, provided support to naval vessels from 15 countries, dropped inert munitions into a target zone in Latvia and coordinated with Latvian, Polish and Lithuanian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
"It's good that the Latvian JTACs controlled the first B-52 drops and it's somewhat symbolic," said Lt. Col. Timothy Brock, Office of Defense Cooperation, U.S. Embassy Latvia bilateral affairs officer. "Its good training, it's live training for the JTACs themselves, and it also sends a strong message that Latvian JTACs are capable of employing weapons like that this far East."
"The whole thing enhances the interoperability of these various militaries, especially when you put together an exercise like this," Brock added. "We have 13 different countries participating in this exercise. As you look at building force providers, when you do something like this it builds capacity."
U.S. Strategic Command's bomber missions provide unique opportunities to integrate and train with Geographic Combatant Commands and the United States' allies and partners in joint and coalition operations and exercises. This deployment provided unique opportunities for AFGSC Airmen to conduct these operations from a forward-deployed location and in partner-nation airspace.
"I think it's been a real successful outcome for the B-52s here as they've spent the last two weeks at RAF Fairford," said Lt. Gen. Stephen Wilson, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. "They participated in both BALTOPS and Saber Strike, got to work with all our international coalition Joint Terminal Air Controllers, as well as participate with mine operations, [and] work with the B-2s doing the engine-running crew change and the long-duration sorties with the B-2s."
"Our aircraft and personnel did great. They showed off we're a real visible presence anytime we come to Europe. We have a lot to learn and we have a lot to teach with the B-52s, so there's a great training opportunity that happens there," Wilson added. "There's also a deterrence message that adversaries around the world look and see this NATO and coalition team that's training together, that's learning from each other and learning each day how to be better at what they do, and it sends a deterrent message to would-be adversaries: don't think about messing with NATO."
The deployment to RAF Fairford was specifically designed and closely coordinated with the United Kingdom and regional allies and partners to ensure maximum opportunities to synchronize and integrate United States bomber capabilities with their military assets; strengthening and improving interoperability, as both organizations work toward mutual goals.
"I'm glad Minot AFB and all the folks who are at Minot can come here to the United Kingdom and experience some great partners and great teammates," Wilson said. "The feedback I'm getting is it's been a win-win relationship for everybody."
The Airmen supported five missions each for Saber Strike and BALTOPS, including the first ever inert munitions drop in Latvia by B-52s with Latvian JTACs calling in air strikes as well as the first ever MK-62 Quick Strike mine drop in the Baltic Sea.