U.S. Air Force B-52s take part in French-led CAS exercise “Serpentex” for the first time

Mar 10 2016 - Leave a Comment

U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers deployed to Moron Air Base have joined French Air Force fighters in CAS exercise

Taken on Mar. 1, 2016 the photo in this post shows a French Air Force Mirage 2000 performing a friendly intercept of a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress belonging to the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana in the skies over Northern France.

This aircraft, which is one of the three BUFFs deployed to Moron Air Base, Spain, in the last days, was intercepted during its flight to Norway for NATO exercise Cold Response 16.

Currently these B-52s are participating in close air support (CAS) exercise Serpentex 16 hosted by France in the Mediterranean Sea.

Kicked off on Mar. 7, Serpentex is an annual exercise that involves joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) from many partner countries.

The JTACs operate on the French Island of Corsica and work together to practice identifying targets and using that data to call in air strikes from nearby French and American aircraft.

Serpentex differs from other joint military exercises held in the region because it focuses on close air support only: in fact, during the drilsl, the B-52s joined with French fighters to support JTACs from several NATO nations, as well as those from Jordan and Saudi Arabia, who are also participating this year.

The presence of the B-52, which is taking part in exercise Serpentex for the very first time, represents a great training opportunity for the JTACs. “Most of them haven’t worked with bombers for these types of missions before. We have a longer duration and a lot wider turn radius than some of the fighters, so they’re going to have to find a new pacing for calling us in for close air support. But I promise that bomber CAS is worth the wait” Maj. Sarah Fortin, the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations, said in a USAF release.

Noteworthy, whilst CAS role has traditionally been filled by various fighter platforms, the BUFF is well-suited for the mission since is able to loiter for extended periods and carrying a wider range of munitions than any other aircraft in the U.S. inventory.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force