First Two Of Six B-52 Bombers Deploying To Diego Garcia Amid Growing Tensions With Iran

Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers. (Image credit: USAF).

The strategic bombers and their support tankers could be tracked online as they moved from Barksdale Air Force Base to the American outpost in the Indian Ocean as part of the U.S. build up in the region.

On Jan. 6, 2020, the first two of six U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers have departed their homebase, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, to deploy to Diego Garcia.

Once again, some interesting details about their deployment (i.e. the time of departure, route, callsigns, support tankers etc.) could be gathered by OSINT (Open Sources Intelligence), exploiting ADS-B, Mode-S, MLAT and radio comms analysis: in fact, as already happened earlier this year, when two “BUFFs” deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar, the first pair of B-52s deploying to Diego Garcia could be tracked online via information in the public domain.

Three B-52s launched from Barksdale AFB under callsign MYTEE 51-52-53 at around 18.00Z.

However, just two aircraft (51 and 52) eventually crossed the Atlantic Ocean and through the Med towards their destination, with the third (MYTEE 53), most probably (since some says there was also a MYTEE 54 that possibly went tech) acting as an air-spare, returned to Barksdale AFB.

The two remaining B-52s continued to corss the Pond, at block level FL270-280, M 0.75,

Along the route the aircraft provided constant position reports on HF frequencies:

Their radio comms can be heard online as well on LiveATC.net.

The mission was supported by multiple tankers: at least 4x KC-10A Extenders (using radio callsign “SPUR51-52” on the East Coast and “RCH021-022” in Europe around the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula) were identified:

It’s not clear the route the aircraft flew after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Actually, it’s not even sure they continued together since they sometimes split and follow different routes to their final destination. For instance, in May 2019, while deploying to Al Udeid, MYTEE 51 and 52 flew different routes after reaching the eastern Med: one crossed the Israeli airspace, went into Jordan, then Saudi Arabia to land in Qatar; the other one took a southeasterly route, via the Egyptian airspace, over the Red Sea south of Sinai, then into Saudi Arabia.

Anyway, four more B-52s (most probably following the same route) are expected to deploy in the next hours. Expect to be able to track these online as well (as done with the cargo planes involved in the military build-up in the region following the attack on US Embassy in Baghdad).

And before some of our readers start complaining about OPSEC, I’d suggest them to read all the articles we have published on this subject since 2011 (some are linked above) and the following excerpt, from a story published in 2018:

However, based on our experience, proper procedures should be adopted (provided they are not there yet) in order to prevent big OPSEC failures. Indeed, whilst securing ADS-B is a must, it’s probably more important to turn off the Mode-S and ADS-B transponders when conducting missions that need to remain invisible (at least to public flight tracking websites and commercial off the shelf receivers). Unless the transponder is turned on for a specific purpose: to let the world know they are there. In fact, as reported several times here, it’s difficult to say whether some aircraft that can be tracked online broadcast their position for everyone to see by accident or on purpose: increasingly, RC-135s and other strategic ISR platforms, including the Global Hawks, operate over highly sensitive regions, such as Ukraine or the Korean Peninsula, with the ADS-B and Mode-S turned on, so that even commercial off the shelf receivers (or public tracking websites) can monitor them. Is it a way to show the flag? Maybe.



About David Cenciotti 3921 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.