Yesterday, U.S. Air Force B-52s flew over the capitals of 30 NATO members. The mission was also an opportunity to take some great shots.
On Aug. 28, 2020, four B-52H Stratofortress bombers, belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing, from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, as part of the latest Bomber Task Force Europe, carried out an unprecedented mission across Europe.
Allied Sky was a single-day mission that saw 6 B-52s overflying all 30 NATO nations to demonstrate NATO solidarity, enhance readiness and provide training opportunities aimed at enhancing interoperability for all participating aircrews from the U.S. and NATO allies.
Allied Sky was conducted by two teams: four B-52 Stratofortresses out of six currently deployed to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, U.K., were tasked to cover European portion of the mission (that would see also the integration with with several NATO nations’ air force fighter aircraft and aerial refueling aircraft in the skies above each host nation); two B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N. D., flew over the NATO nations of Canada and the United States.
During the mission, out of the four B-52 flying in Europe, only 61-0034 used its Mode-S transponder and could be tracked online during its long trip (the others, serials 60-0005, 60-0007 and 60-0056, could not be tracked online using the popular flight tracking websites ADSBExchange, PlaneRadar, Airnav RadarBox etc.).
Using the radio callsign “NATO 01” (a first, considered that the callsign NATO xx is usually reserved to the Alliance’s E-3A AWACS home-based at Geilenkirchen Air Base), the B-52H/61-0034, undertook an interesting tour flying from RAF Fairford across Eastern Europe to the Black Sea area and then back via (among the others) Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.
Overall, the B-52s in Europe were escorted by combat aircraft of all types: RAF Typhoons and FAF Mirage 2000 over the Baltic off Lithuania; while flying over Belgium, 60-0005 was escorted by BAF F-16s; the 60-0005 (NATO 04) was also intercepted and escorted by RDAF F-16s and RNoAF F-35s; over Poland, the B-52 60-0056 was escorted by F-16s and MiG-29s; while the BUFF 61-0034 was accompanied by JAS 39 Gripen over the Czech Republic; by F-16s and MiG-21 Lancers over Romania; MiG-29s over Bulgaria; MiG-21s over Croatia; F-16s over Greece; Italian Air Force Typhoons and F-35s intercepted and escorted NATO 01 over Italy.
In what was a rather symbolic first, a U.S. B-52 flew over Rome escorted by two @ItalianAirForce F-35s and two Eurofighter Typhoons. The fighters escorted the B-52 until it reached NW Italy, then RTB: the F-35s returned to Amendola and the Typhoons returned to Grosseto. https://t.co/GG9hlJCqRW
— David Cenciotti (@cencio4) August 28, 2020
During the Turkish segment, the B-52 NATO 01 was also refueled by a Turkish Air Force KC-135 tanker:
2 F-16 ve 2 KC-135R uçağımız ile ABD’ye ait B-52 uçağına destek verilmiş, ABD uçağına yakıt ikmali yapılarak F-16 uçaklarımız tarafından Ege Denizi üzerindeki uluslararası hava sahasının derinliklerine kadar eskort görevi icra edilmiştir.https://t.co/Zssa5ZHsGq#MSB #TSK pic.twitter.com/87udEQdnIx
— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) August 29, 2020
Noteworthy, the BUFF NATO 01 was also escorted by the Russians, as it was intercepted by Russian Air Force Su-27 Flankers over the Black Sea (an intercept that the U.S. DoD defined “unsafe and unprofessional”, as happened several times in the past):
Russian Air Force Su-27 fighters, presumably from the 38th Fighter Aviation Regiment, intercepted a US B-52 bomber over the Black Sea today. The Su-27 fighters got quite close to the B-52. 73/https://t.co/s6THo3DeXZ pic.twitter.com/X186CPIhdB
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 28, 2020
Here are some of the images released by the various NATO members. Unfortunately, not all nations and air forces did take aerial shots, but some made an outstanding job!
Today we participated with 🇧🇪 #F16 in the exercise Operation Allied Sky. This is a Bomber Task Force Mission exercise carried out by 🇺🇸#B52 aircraft together with @NATO allies and organised by @US_Stratcom & @US_EUCOM. pic.twitter.com/cZA414VXSZ
— Belgian Air Force🇧🇪 (@BeAirForce) August 28, 2020
— U.S. Embassy Prague 🇺🇸🇨🇿 (@USEmbassyPrague) August 28, 2020
The @NATO Mission Allied Sky symbolizes the future of the Alliance: stronger than ever before, united, bound by common values. Yesterday while overflying Croatia 🇭🇷, the B-52 Bomber was accompanied by the Croatian Air Force. #WeAreNATO
— U.S. Embassy Zagreb (@USEmbZagreb) August 29, 2020
RAF on BAP (Baltic Air Policing mission):
.@RoyalAirForce Typhoons based in #Lithuania on Op. AZOTIZE joined other #NATO partners to escort US B-52 Bombers on their epic mission to fly around all 30 NATO nations in a single day #WeAreNATO pic.twitter.com/9hWGxCWioV
— Defence Operations 🇬🇧 (@DefenceOps) August 29, 2020
B-52 bombers and Romanian Air Force F-16s and MiG-21 Lancers took part today at Allied Sky 2020. Photos: ROAF. @TheAviationist @cencio4 @MIL_Radar @CivMilAir @MilitaryTimes @usairforce @SHAPE_NATO @NSPA_NATO @NATOpress @HQUSAFEAFAF pic.twitter.com/Kg20bQXUj3
— Aeronews (@AeronewsGlobal) August 28, 2020
📸 Piotr Łysakowski pic.twitter.com/pXYmpUKfZB
— PLinNATO (@PLinNATO) August 29, 2020
Απάντηση σε ανάρτηση του Τουρκικού Υπουργείου Άμυνας για την Αποστολή Συνοδείας Αεροσκάφους Β-52 https://t.co/i3tcUYD9aS μέσω @Γενικό Επιτελείο Εθνικής Άμυνας – Επίσημη Ιστοσελίδα
— ΓΕΕΘΑ (GEETHA)-HNDGS (@hndgspio) August 29, 2020
Over Canada, the two B-52s launched from Minot AFB as NATO 05 and 06, were escorted by RCAF CF-188s.
#WeAreNATO in the skies above Europe and North America! @RCAF_ARC CF-188s Hornets accompanied @usairforce B-52 Stratofortress bombers as they soared above Ontario and Quebec for Ex ALLIED SKY to show alliance solidarity between NATO member countries. #PartnerStrong pic.twitter.com/y69QL0WxFu
— Canadian Armed Forces Operations (@CFOperations) August 28, 2020
Here are the radio comms of the B-52 over Belgium with F-16 escort:
The Final Edition !!
The making of….. ✈️B52 📷photoshoot📷 by BAF F16 ”Matrx55”
B52 (60-0005) ”NATO04” with BAF F16s ”LH01” and ”LH02”
(Video by Master Sgt. Burt Traynor, 1st Combat Camera Squadron) 👍 pic.twitter.com/JFj2XxEmYG
— ”The Lazy 🌴 Garden 🌴” Eindhoven Spotter (@EHEH_Spotter) August 29, 2020
Although such missions are “long-planned and not in response to any current political events occurring in Europe”, Allied Sky and the symbolic flyover of the NATO capitals sent a clear message of unity to potential adversaries and proved U.S. ability to launch strategic mission from both CONUS and Europe.
BTW, as the U.S. bombers made their tour of NATO countries, the Russian Aerospace Forces also carried out drills, including Tu-142 missions in the Alaskan ADIZ, which caused the intercept by the U.S. F-22s under NORAD command:
#NORAD F-22 fighter aircraft, supported by KC-135 air refuelers, intercepted three groups of two Tu-142 Russian maritime patrol aircraft that entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone late last night. (1/5) https://t.co/mvitS3nIuM
— North American Aerospace Defense Command (@NORADCommand) August 28, 2020
One of the Tu-142 flights from yesterday, including Tu-142MZ RF-34098, which had a MiG-31 interceptor escort. 10 Tu-142 maritime patrol/ASW aircraft conducted flights over the Black, Baltic, Norwegian, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas and Pacific Ocean. 80/https://t.co/OMoXHsJIT9 pic.twitter.com/I1Foq2Saxo
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) August 29, 2020