One of the four B-52 Stratofortress bombers deployed to RAF Fairford paid visit to Ostrava.
While a Russian invasion of Ukraine appears to be a matter of hours, U.S. and NATO combat aircraft continue to operate in the eastern Europe region. In particular, on Feb. 21, 2022, shortly after 15.00LT, one of the four B-52H Stratofortress bombers deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, as part of BTF (Bomber Task Force) 22-2 carried out a quite unusual visit to Leoš Janáček Airport in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The landing of the American bomber took place as part of a training flight over Central and Eastern Europe: TYSON11, #60-0044, visited Ostrava, in the eastern part of Czech Republic, while another aircraft, TYSON 12, that was supposed to operate inside the Czech airspace accompanied by JAS-39 Gripen of the 21st Tactical Air Force Base Čáslav, went tech before take off (highlighting what our sources call a “pretty low mission readiness rate” these days among the aircraft deployed to RAF Fairford).
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The training flight was used to practice mutual cooperation between the air forces of NATO member states.
“We have a very good cooperation with the US military. We work together in foreign operations, organize exercises and cooperate on the education system. We exchange experiences, for example, with the recruitment of soldiers or midfielders. We have years of cooperation with the Texas and Nebraska National Guard, “said Army General Aleš Opata, Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Army, in a public release.
“The Czech Republic is a good ally for us, on which there is reliance. The flight over the Czech Republic and the stopover was a long-term planned activity of the bomber as part of its operational deployment in Europe, “commented General Jeff Harrigian, commander of the US Air Force in Europe – African Air Force and Allied Air Command.
The strategic bomber performed a 3-hour stop in Ostrava. During the stop, the crew performed a technical inspection of the aircraft and packs the deployed brake parachute.
As Colonel Magdalena Dvořáková pointed out in a story published on the Czech Army website, while B-52 flights across Europe are not uncommon, the bombers usually don’t perform stopovers during such missions. In fact, the size of the Stratofortress is such that it is not easy for an airport to service it when on the ground. Moreover, thanks to the AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) support provided by KC-135 tankers, the BUFFs can remain in the air for many hours, as proved by the recent 24-hour trip from RAF Fairford to the Med and Red Sea regions and back last week. Indeed, their deterrence power is much higher when they are airborne, eventually carrying weapons.
To that respect, in spite of all the speculations surrounding these flights, the aircraft *usually* don’t carry any live weapon during such missions, especially when a stopover is planned in a foreign country: for instance, TYSON11 that landed at Ostrava, did not carry active weapon systems on board. Summing up, the short visit of the B-52 to Ostrava today was mostly symbolic.
By the way, this wasn’t the first time a B-52 landed at Ostrava, quite the contrary: the Stratofortress bomber has been one of the highlights of the NATO Days airshow series. In 2017, the B-52H belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, was photographed departing from Ostrava after attending the NATO Days 2017, on Sept. 18, 2017, emitting sparks and smoke.