B-2 Stealth Bombers Deploy to Europe for Training with Allied Nations

Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 Spirit on the flight line at Royal Air Base Fairford, England, on Aug. 27, 2019. A Bomber Task Force deployment of the stealth bomber aircraft, airmen and support equipment from the 509th BW at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, arrived in the U.S. European Command area of operations for a deployment to conduct theater integration and flying training.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)
Airman 1st Class Austin Sawchuk, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing, marshals in a B-2 Spirit on the flight line at Royal Air Base Fairford, England, on Aug. 27, 2019. A Bomber Task Force deployment of the stealth bomber aircraft, airmen and support equipment from the 509th BW at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, arrived in the U.S. European Command area of operations for a deployment to conduct theater integration and flying training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

U.S. B-2 Spirit stealth bombers are in Europe for joint training.

Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, arrived this week at RAF Fairford, England, for "theater integration and flying training" operations, U.S. European Command said in a news release Tuesday.

The nuclear bombers, which are part of a "Bomber Task Force," will participate in joint training with other Air Force units as well as allies and partners. The operations will test how well the bombers can operate out of Fairford, which is the forward operating location for bombers for U.S. Air Forces Europe, the command said.

"Training with partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units contributes to our readiness and enables us to build enduring and strategic relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges," the release states.

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Aircraft spotters on social media saw at least three bombers touch down at Fairford. They were using call signs "DEATH 11, DEATH 12 and DEATH 13," which have been used for the bombers before.

EUCOM officials did not say whether the B-2s are in the region to support a specific exercise; the summer season typically sees more than a handful of exercises, some going on simultaneously. However, those short, rapid deployments are winding down for the year.

While the annual exercises have taken place for years, bomber deployments to Europe have been given more scrutiny since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

In 2017, the U.S. sent two B-2s to join B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress bombers that were already in the theater, marking the first time all three aircraft had been in the theater at the same time.

The Air Force in recent months has been adding shorter, strategic bomber rotations to test its agility in deploying its heavy aircraft forces around the world.

"I am focused a lot on a different operational mentality in the command, to think about great power competition," Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, told reporters during a Defense Writers Group breakfast in Washington, D.C., in April.

In March, the command deployed six B-52s and more than 400 personnel from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to Fairford for a month-long rotation.

That deployment, also part of a "Bomber Task Force" exercise, marked the largest deployment of one bomber platform to Europe since 2003, when the command had nearly 20 bombers at Fairford in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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