B-52 Stratofortress Bombers Missions Over The Black Sea And Baltic Regions: An OSINT Analysis

A U.S. Air Force B-52 flew over Estonia on Oct. 23, 2019. (Image credit: USAFE).

The “Buffs” deployed to RAF Fairford are flying across Europe, from the Black Sea to the Baltic region. Let’s have a look at the details that could be gathered by means of Open Source Analysis.

Four B-52 assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing have left Barksdale Air Force Base, Lousiana, on Oct. 10, 2019, to deploy to RAF Fairford, UK, where are currently based as part of Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1.

B-52s were deployed there in March, for the largest deployment of a single bomber type since the beginning of the War in Iraq back in 2003.

U.S. Air Force Maj. “Feud” and U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Kevan Thomas, pilots assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, prepare to fly by Tallinn Airport as a show of force during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019, in Tallinn, Estonia. Strategic bombers contribute to stability in the European theater, as they are intended to deter conflict rather than instigate it, demonstrating the credibility of U.S. forces to address the current global security environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

The Stratofortress strategic bombers are conducting integration and interoperability training with European allies and partners in the region during their deployment, practicing bomber operations from a forward operating base.

Three B-52 flying over the Baltics. (Image credit: USAFE).

As part of their training, B-52s have conducted an extended duration sortie over the Black Sea region with the support of our allies and partners on Oct. 19: the mission, which lasted 12 hours, included training with Romania, Ukraine and Georgia. During the mission, the American bomber was allegedly intercepted by a Russian Flanker in international airspace over the Black Sea some 70 kilometers from the Russian border.

Two B-52s were involved in the Black Sea mission:  AFKAI11 #60-0025 and AFKAI12 #61-0025. The bombers could be tracked online using their Mode-S transponders (as already happened earlier this year when they deployed to Qatar). Interestingly, AFKAI was a temporary callsign and the bombers changed to BRIG c/s at a certain point during the mission, before returning to RAF Fairford.



Then, on Oct. 23, three “Buffs” flew over the Baltic region. Once again, flight tracking was made possible by the aircraft’s transponders, providing some interesting details about the serial numbers involved, radio callsign used and route the aircraft flew.



As the B-52s operated in the Baltic, an RC-135V flew a mission in the area, most probably to detect emissions from Russian radars in the Kaliningrad area:


During the mission, they were escorted by the Czech Air Force JAS 39 Gripen supporting NATO Baltic Air Policing, that conducted a pre-planned intercept on the U.S. bombers.

Two Czech Air Force JAS-39 Gripens fly near the wing of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress during Bomber Task Force Europe 20-1, Oct. 23, 2019, over the Baltic Sea. This deployment allows Aircrews and support personnel to conduct theater integration and to improve bomber interoperability with joint partners and allied nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

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.