The “Buffs” arrived a few weeks after the departure of the B-2 Spirit stealth bombers.
The U.S. Air Force deployed a Bomber Task Force of four B-52H and 350 airmen to RAF Fairford. The official announcement by the Global Strike Command was released while the B-52s from the 2nd Bomb Wing, based at Barksdale AFB, were already crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The bombers landed on UK soil in the evening of October 10, 2019.
According to the release, “this deployment will exercise Air Force Global Strike Command’s ability to conduct bomber operations from a forward operating location in support of U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) mission objectives”.
The aircraft involved in the Bomber Task Force 20-1 are reported to be BuNo 60-0024, 60-0025, 60-0028, 61-0006 and used the radio callsigns “BRIG 01-04”. The first two B-52s belong to the 20th Bomber Squadron and the other two belong to the 96th Bomber Squadron. According to data gathered via online ADS-B trackers, one B-52 landed immediately after arriving in the UK, while the remaining bombers flew to the Baltic Sea and back before landing in Fairford.
2 x USAF B-52 bombers over the Baltic Sea 👇 pic.twitter.com/auOhjCI06K
— CivMilAir ✈ (@CivMilAir) 10 ottobre 2019
USAF B-52Hs BRIG01, 02, & 04 flew a Baltic mission from Barksdale then on to Fairford. BRIG03 flew Barksdale direct Fairford. This is another Bomber Task Force deployment! pic.twitter.com/9tlnhFbb3J
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) 10 ottobre 2019
Adverse weather conditions were reported at Fairford: in particular low clouds, rain and high winds that forced a Stratofortress to go around and perform a second approach before landing.
— Julian Watkins (@JulianGWatkins) 11 ottobre 2019
Officially, “aircrews will conduct integration and interoperability training with European allies and partners in the region” but, to preserve the Operational SECurity (OPSEC), the Air Force stated that details about future operations will not be discussed. This deployment, which could have been already planned, comes at an interesting time as tensions are rising again around Iran and the border between Syria and Turkey.
The deployment was anticipated by local news outlets and aircraft spotters who noticed an increased traffic of Air Mobility Command’s C-5s and Boeing 747s of Kalitta Air in and out of Fairford, as happened before for previous B-52 deployments, the last of which happened in March 2019, when six BUFFs deployed to Fairford for a month. More recently, RAF Fairford hosted three B-2 stealth bombers from August 27 to September 19 as they trained in the area, performing also hot-pit refueling operations at various locations.
Well, it seems there are four B-52Hs forward deployed for exercises against Russian targets, and jointly with allies.
— Steffan Watkins (@steffanwatkins) 11 ottobre 2019
It is not known yet how long the B-52s will stay at Fairford and there were also rumors circulating about the arrival of (four) other bombers but, at the time of publication of this article, no other arrivals were registered.