U.S. B-52 Bombers Belonging To Task Force Deployed To UK Perform “Theater Familiarization Flights” Across Europe

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., breaks away from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall over Romania, March 18, 2019. The B-52 received 77,000 pounds of fuel from the KC-135. The KC-135 mission supported supported the B-52 Stratortress deployed to Europe as part of the Bomber Task Force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)

Stratofortress bombers are part of a Task Force of 6 “Buffs”: the largest American bomber deployment to RAF Fairford since the Iraq war in 2003.

On Mar. 18, 2019, a U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber, deployed to RAF Fairford from its homebase at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, was spotted refueling from a KC-135R Stratotanker over Romania.

The aircraft, belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing, is part of a contingent of 6x B-52s deployed to the UK as part of a Bomber Task Force rotation in Europe. It is the largest Stratofortress deployment since Iraqi Freedom in 2003, when there were as many as 17x “Buffs” on the ramp at RAF Fairford

“The deployment of strategic bombers to the U.K. helps exercise RAF Fairford as United States Air Forces in Europe’s forward operating location for bombers. The deployment also includes joint and allied training in the U.S. European Command theater to improve bomber interoperability. Training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units contributes to our ready and postured forces and enables us to build enduring and strategic relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges,” says a news release on the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command website.

The B-52 were deployed to the UK on Mar. 14 and 15 and have started launching “local” sorties since Friday.

On Mar. 15, a B-52 flew some 150 km off the Russian border the Russian Defense Ministry claimed according to TASS News Agency:

“On March 15, 2019, a US Air Force B-52 aircraft with the transponder switched on performed a flight over international waters of the Baltic Sea parallel to Russia’s territorial waters. The plane did not approach Russia’s border closer than 150 kilometers and turned around immediately after Russian air defense systems on combat duty tracked it,” the Russian MoD said.

B-52s have been quite active this week too: the heavy bombers have already conducted other “theater familiarization flights” on Monday, when four B-52s were launched over the Norwegian Sea, the Baltic Sea, Estonia, the Mediterranean Sea and Greece. Some of them could be tracked online during their tour of Europe.

Dealing with the one spotted over Romania, B-52 #61-0015 using radio callsign “AERO 11” was being refueled by KC-135R #60-0344 “QID244”.

The KC-135R could be tracked online while it accompanied the B-52 back to the UK:

The six Buffs are expected to fly from the Arctic all the way down to the Sahara desert during their stay in Europe. Expect more photo and flight tracking opportunities over the coming weeks!

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.