US B-52s train with Norwegian and Swedish jets en route to Europe
- Four US Air Force B-52 bombers arrived in Britain on Thursday for a Bomber Task Force deployment.
- During their flight to Britain, the bombers trained with Norwegian and Swedish fighter jets.
- The drills come amid heightened tensions in Europe and as NATO increases its focus on the Far North.
US Air Force B-52 bombers arrived in Europe on Thursday for a Bomber Task Force deployment after training with Norwegian and Swedish fighter jets before landing at RAF Fairford airbase in England.
The exercise provided unique photos of the countries training together, reflecting an already close military relationship that will grow closer as Sweden joins NATO and the alliance increases its focus on the far north.
Flying from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the UK, the four B-52H bombers – accompanied by support equipment and airmen – were supported by two Swedish JAS Gripen fighter jets and two Norwegian F-35s west of Andøya in northern Norway. the Norwegian military said.
One of the B-52s is training with the Norwegian Army at the nearby Setermoen firing range.
“Operations like this require thorough tactical cooperation between nations, aircraft types and participating ground forces,” the Norwegian military said, adding that it was the first time it had released photos of the countries’ aircraft “on such a mission.” .
B-52s also flew into Swedish airspace to train with the Gripens. They conducted airstrikes, with the B-52s dropping three GBU-31 bombs on targets identified by Swedish ground forces, according to the Swedish military said It was the first American-Swedish exercise of its kind to use live ammunition.
The training, held at the Vidsel firing range in northern Sweden, was the first US bomber flight over the country since it bid to join NATO this summer. It was a nuclear capable B-52 and one that is “denuclearized”. said Hans Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists.
Sweden has been a NATO partner for decades and, like Finland, has trained closely with the alliance. Their membership, which NATO members are now voting on, would bring additional benefits, including mutual defense protection for the Alliance.
“To see our nation’s JAS Gripen fighter jet fly alongside several of America’s most capable military aircraft visually demonstrates the strength and solidarity of NATO.” said Major General Carl-Johan Edstrom, Commander of the Swedish Air Force.
“These moments really capture the military power that exists within NATO – as individual nations but, more importantly, as a unified alliance,” Edstrom added.
Stockholm and Helsinki sought NATO membership in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. This war has shown the value of long-distance operations, Edstrom said in a separate press release, adding that Thursday’s exercises will “significantly” increase Sweden’s defense capability.
Sweden and Finland would bring about 250 modern fighter jets into NATO, including Sweden’s advanced Gripens and the F-35 that Finland will receive in the years to come – additions NATO officials are excited about.
Sweden’s participation on Thursday was “vital” and its NATO membership “will give us greater collective fighting power,” he said. said Major General Rolf Folland, Chief of the Norwegian Air Force. “The air dimension is unique in military operations. Air control has great advantages and gives land and sea forces the conditions for success.”
The Norwegian Air Force is already considering establishing a “joint Nordic air operations center” that would support the planning and “significantly strengthen our collective defence,” Folland added.
Tensions in Europe have continued to escalate since Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014. Strained relations with Moscow and changes caused by climate change have increasingly drawn military attention to the Arctic, where Russia maintains a large military presence.
The US Navy and other NATO navies have spent more time in the Norwegian and Barents Seas building proficiency in Arctic waters where they have not spent much time since the Cold War.
US bombers were also more active over the Arctic.
In early 2021, B-1Bs were deployed to central Norway and operated from Norwegian soil for the first time. In September last year, B-2s were deployed to Iceland for the first time, operating from what was considered a valuable North Atlantic outpost. B-52s also regularly fly over the Arctic, often during Bomber Task Force operations.
Bombers from previous BTF sorties flew near the Russian border, but during the Biden administration those flights were less “in your face,” Kristensen told Insider this spring.
US bombers are still a visible presence over Europe, and their sorties “provide a great opportunity to enhance our collective readiness, promote interoperability and demonstrate our global power projection alongside our allies,” said Gen. James Hecker, commander of the US Air Forces in Europe, said Thursday.
“Our ultimate strength in the European theater of operations is shared lethality – our ability to train and operate our allies and partners as a diverse, capable and credible combat team,” Hecker said.