B-52s play major role dropping mines during Baltops 2016 exercise

File photo of a B-52 being refueled by a KC-135. (Image credit: USAF)

Stratofortress bombers pivotal in the exercises underway across central and eastern Europe.

The three B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers deployed from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, are playing a major role in U.S. European Command (EUCOM)’s exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 16.

The long-range heavy bombers, a frequent presence in the Old Continent considered that B-52s from Barksdale AFB have deployed to Morón Air Base, Spain, in February and March 2016, have conducted both land and maritime attack missions, simulating also a naval mine drop (as done last year during Baltops 2015 in Sweden).

The aircraft dropped 500-pound dummy Mk-62 mines, that is to say Mk-82 500-lb general purpose bomb fitted with a Fin Mk 15, Fin BSU-86/B, or Tail Section Mk 16. Once in the water, the mine uses an MK57 Target Detection Device (TDD) to detect a ship passing above: it can detect the vessel by pressure of the ship on the water, by magnetism of the ship’s metal or vibration caused by the ship.

Dropping mines is something the B-52 is capable of “but we don’t get a chance to do too often,” Col. Kieran Denehan, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, told Air Force Times.

The task is to hit their simulated targets to see just how well the Buff can hit up a mine field if it were laden with explosives.

Along with supporting the BALTOPS 16 and SaberStrike 16, the U.S. Air Force 50-year old bombers are also supporting real combat ops: six B-52s are currently deployed to Al Udeid airbase, in Qatar from where they operate in support of Operation Inherent Resolve taking part in the air war against Daesh.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.