The U.S. Air Force has sent six B-52 long-range bombers to the United Kingdom for a series of training activities over Europe. The aircraft and over 450 airmen arrived at Royal Air Force base Fairford on Thursday (14 March 2018) from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu welcomed the deployment, saying: “This is a routine deployment, but it shows that the US nuclear umbrella protects Europe and demonstrates the unique capabilities the US could bring to Europe in a crisis. The B-52 deployment is yet another sign that the United States is strongly committed to NATO”.
The United States has deployed strategic bombers in Europe at least once a year since 2014. Since then, all three US bomber variants – the B-1, B-2 and B-52 bombers – have deployed to Fairford airbase for exercises with European NATO Allies, including to Exercise Baltops and Exercise Sabre Strike.
Fairford airbase has been an American standby base for bomber operations around Europe for decades. The current deployment marks the largest deployment of B-52 bombers to Europe since Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. It will test how the bombers can conduct missions out of Fairford and will familiarise aircrews with operations over Europe, including the Norwegian Sea, Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean.
The U.S. Strategic Command oversees the United States strategic and nuclear deterrent, including B-52 deployments. Forces assigned to the Command are on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deter strategic attacks against the U.S. and NATO allies.
The B-52 has been in use with the US Air Force since the 1950s and can carry both conventional and nuclear weapons.