U.S. B-52s Conduct Mission To Europe: One Flies Over The Barents Sea, One Diverts To RAF Fairford For Engine Failure

One of the two B-52s which took part in the BTF mission to Europe on Dec. 3, 2020 (Image credit: RNoAF). In the box, the other B-52 tracking over the UK while burning fuel. (Image credit: ADSBExchange)

Two B-52s flew from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, to Europe. But one had to divert to RAF Fairford, UK, after experiencing an issue to one of its 8 engines on its way to the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

On Dec. 3, 2020, B-52 Stratofortress bombers belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing, conducted a one-day mission to Europe. At least, four BUFFs launched from their homebase at Minot AFB, ND, using radio callsigns CAKE11-14 and could be tracked online and by means of their radio comms as they flew eastbound across the U.S.

Out of the four B-52s, just two crossed the Atlantic Ocean to carry out the BTF (Bomber Task Force) mission. One flew towards the Barents Sea, to integrate with the Royal Norwegian Air Force F-16s and train with local JTACs (Joint Terminal Air Controllers). The RNoAF also took some nice shots of the strategic bombers intercepted by their F-16s in the early morning light.

The other B-52, which had changed the radio callsign from CAKE 13 to CAKE 11 flew towards the Mediterranean Sea, refueled over the Tyrrhenian Sea and then pressed on southeast bound. This aircraft could be tracked online on ADSBExchange network.

CAKE 11, airframe #61-0001, was supposed to continue its mission towards Greece and Turkey but, it was forced to quit the mission after experiencing an engine issue while flying southeast bound more or less over Southern Italy. For this reason, it headed towards the UK, and burned fuel in a holding pattern for about 3 hours, before declaring emergency for one engine out, and successfully landing at RAF Fairford. No big deal, considered the aircraft is powered by 8 engines and can fly with only two out of eight engines. This is also the reason why the bomber did not head towards the nearest airfield or to Moron, Spain.

Noteworthy, while correctly reporting the diversion to RAF Fairford, the public releases issued on Dec. 4 by NATO and the U.S. European Command, also claim that one of the B-52s (most probably the one that flew towards the Med Sea) integrated with the Hellenic Air Force F-16s and was supported by a Turkish Air Force KC-135 tanker. However, the narrative is not supported by the flight tracking data. While we have asked for some official clarification, it seems likely that the official press releases were prepared before the mission was actually flown and were not fixed to reflect the fact that one of the BUFFs had to divert before completing its planned mission.

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.