Tag Archives: BALTOPS

B-52, B-1, Typhoon and V-22 Among The assets Supporting A Spectacular Beach Landing Operation During BALTOPS 2017

This Is What A Modern Beach Landing Operation In The Baltic Region Would Look Like.

BALTOPS 2017 is the largest military exercise organized in the Baltic region this year.

The operation was held by the STRIKFORNATO (SFN) command, with Poland acting as the host nation. More than 40 vessels have entered the ports of Stettin and Świnoujście on Jun. 1, with some of them being accessible to the visitors.

Three days later, the aforesaid units sailed out, where the sailors perfected their interoperational abilities. The whole operation ended up on Jun. 18, in Germany.

The BALTOPS has taken place regularly, in the Baltic Sea region, since 1972. Initially, the operation only involved the NATO forces; beginning in 1993, members of the former Warsaw Pact were also invited to participate, Poland being no exception in that regard.

Since 1993 BALTOPS has become a part of the Partnership for Peace program. Currently the operation has a multinational profile and places a particular emphasis on training in the areas of gunnery, replenishment at sea, anti-submarine warfare (ASW), radar tracking & interception, mine countermeasures, seamanship, search and rescue, maritime interdiction operations and scenarios dealing with potential real world crises and maritime security.

AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft supporting the Beach Landing Ops

A USMC vehicle during the landing operation.

This year, the operation involved forces from Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the United States (here we are also referring to the vessels of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1).

The Polish Navy was involved in the BALTOPS operation for the 27th time this year. The main naval component of the Polish Navy detached to take part in the operation included five minesweepers (ORP Dąbie, ORP Mielno, ORP Wicko, ORP Mamry, ORP Wdzydze), Lublin-class minelayer-landing ships: ORP Gniezno and ORP Kraków; and a submarine, ORP Bielik.

A B-52 approaching the naval range.

The whole operation was staged in the Baltic Sea area, within the naval training ranges of the Polish Navy, as well as within the naval and land portion of the Central Air Force Training Range, also located in the coastal region of Ustka.

On Wednesday, Jun. 14 the beach in Ustka became an arena, within which one of the most important portions of the exercise took place – a landing operation carried out by the task force group involved in the event. The main forces landing on the Polish beach included the 1st Battalion of the 23rd US Marines regiment, utilizing AAV-7 amphibious carriers and LCAC hovercraft. The whole operation was supported by 8 vessels, including two Polish minelayer-landing ships hailing from the 8th Coastal Defense Flotilla.

One of the APCs involved in the BALTOPS beach landing event.

Nonetheless, the landing operation would not have been complete without involvement of the coalition’s air assets. The landing was preceded by a CAS (Close Air Support) simulation involving the USAF B-52 and B-1B bombers, two Polish F-16 jets, German Eurofighter Typhoons, as well as V-22 Osprey. Notably, due to the humid air over the Polish coast, clouds of condensation and vapor cones have been clearly visible on the surfaces of the participating aircraft.

A German Typhoon “sweeps” the beach landing area

A B-1B deployed to RAF Fairford during its attack run.

The B-1 overflies the beach landing area.

The red force simulation has been provided by a mechanized company of the Polish 7th Coastal Defense Brigade.

The whole operation was supervised by the commander of the 6th Fleet and STRIKFORNATO, Vice-Admiral Christopher Grady, along with Deputy Commander, Rear Admiral P. A. McAlpine. Poland was represented by the Deputy General Commander of the Armed Forces, Division General Jan Śliwka, and by Rear Admiral Jarosław Ziemiański – Deputy Inspector of the Navy, along with Brig. General Wojciech Grabowski.

A CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was among the assets that supported BALTOPS 2017.

Image credit: Wojciech Mazurkiewicz



Cockpit Video From Inside A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer As The bomber Is intercepted Over The Baltic By A Russian Su-27 Flanker

The Su-27 intercept as seen from the cockpit of the B-1B bomber over the Baltic Sea.

Our friends at Air Forces Monthly have obtained a pretty interesting footage: filmed from inside the cockpit of a “Bone” temporarily deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, to take part in BALTOPS exercise, the short clipo shows a Russian Naval Aviation’s Su-27 Flanker approaching the B-1B’s starboard wing, then banking to pass below the nose of the Lancer.

“AFM was told the Russian pilot acted in a non-aggressive manner throughout the manoeuvre, which saw the fighter assume position off the starboard side before banking and descending below the B-1,” says the story published on AFM’s website.

It’s not clear whether the clip was filmed on the very same day these fantastic shots were taken by U.S. Air Force photographer Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder from the boom position of a KC-135 tanker as a really unusual “formation” consisting of 2x B-1s, 1x B-52 and 1x KC-135 were involved in a photo hop in international airspace over the Baltic Sea when they were joined by a Su-27 Flanker on Friday Jun. 9.  In that case the U.S. Air Force stated that the intercept was conducted in a safe and professional way, in contrast with what happened after several previous incidents that the U.S. DoD defined “unsafe” or “unprofessional” with the Russian interceptors maneuvering aggressively in proximity of the American aircraft (read here or here for a couple of examples.)

Indeed, to be honest, the above clip seems to show the Su-27 dangerously close to the U.S. bomber, much more than one would expect from a “safe” maneuver: however, it might be a matter of perspective…

According to AFM, the Flanker in the intercept footage is a Su-27P interceptor belonging to the Fighter Aviation Squadron of the 72 Aviatsionnaya Baza (AvB, Aviation Base) of the Morskaya Aviatsiya Baltiyskogo Flota (MA BF, Naval Aviation of the Baltic Fleet), based at Chkalovsk air base in Kaliningrad Oblast.

H/T Thomas Newdick (@CombatAir) for posting the video.

Check Out This Really Unusual “Formation”: USAF B-1Bs, B-52H, KC-135R Escorted by Russian SU-27 Over Baltic.

Here are some extraordinary pictures of a really unsual “close encounter” over the Baltic Sea.

In yet another sensational encounter between U.S. and Russian aircraft, two B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, a B-52H Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing (both deployed to RAF Fairford, UK) and a KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft from the 459th Air Refueling Squadron were intercepted and observed by a Russian SU-27 Flanker on Friday, June 9 over the Baltic Sea.

The U.S. bomber and tanker formation was participating in BALTOPS, an aerial deployment exercise that rehearses and improves cooperation and interoperability between U.S. and international units and as a demonstration of U.S. capabilities in the region to reinforce the U.S. commitment to security.

U.S. Air Force photographer Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder shot these photos (from the boom position of a KC-135 tanker) during the Friday intercept. The U.S. Air Force said officially that, “Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner.”

However the list of intercepts deemed “unsafe” or “unprofessional” from the U.S. DoD is pretty long… (read here or here for a couple of examples.)

A Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepts a formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft, two B-1B Lancers, 28th Bomb Wing, KC-135R Stratotanker, 459th Air Refueling Squadron and B-52H Stratofortress, 2nd Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

There has been an increase in intercepts between NATO, U.S. and Russian aircraft during the last 24 months in what seems like a slightly less-tense return to the Cold War era when intercepts had a distinctly more ominous message. The U.K. based news writer Lizzie Dearden wrote, “Around 780 deployments were made from European military bases last year in response to Russian aircraft, compared to just 410 in 2015.” This does not a string of intercepts in other regions that include a sensational set of four intercepts in a row by USAF F-22 Raptors of Russian maritime patrol aircraft off the Alaskan coast recently.

A Russian Su-27 Flanker intercepts a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 28th Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

While popular news media often adds a sensational spin to the intercepts suggesting some version of political brinkmanship a more relevant interpretation is that the air forces involved are conducting the intercepts for training and air traffic safety reasons. Some NATO aircraft including RAF Typhoons have escorted Russian aircraft that flew in moderate proximity to commonly used civilian air routes without common air traffic control transponders. When NATO aircraft rendezvous with the Russian aircraft they use their transponders to mark the location of the Russian aircraft as they transit the airspace.

Regardless of the motives the encounters often make for sensational photos and video.

A Russian Su-27 Flanker peels away from a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 28th Bomb Wing, while participating in BALTOPS over the Baltic Sea, June 9, 2017. The exercise is designed to enhance flexibility and interoperability, to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate resolve among Allied and Partner Nations’ forces to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea region. Flight intercepts are regular occurrences, and the vast majority are conducted in a safe and professional manner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)


Up close and personal with the B-52 bombers deployed to the UK for drills in Europe

We had the privilege of being invited to RAF Fairford on the 11th June 2016 to meet squadron personnel from the United States Air Force 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB.

Over the period of Jun. 2 and 3, 2016, three B-52H Stratofortress bombers arrived direct from their home base of Minot, North Dakota.

The three aircraft deployed are 23rd Bomb Squadron “The Barons” aircraft:

60-0007/MT B-52H Stratofortress

60-0037/MT B-52H Stratofortress

60-0044/MT B-52H Stratofortress

A total of 250 U.S Air Force personnel have been deployed to RAF Fairford in support of these aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Col. Kieran Denehan, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group commander explained the reason for the deployment “We are here primarily to support two exercises the first one is BALTOPS2016 and the second one is Saber Strike.”

“BALTOPS” is primarily a Maritime exercise around the Baltic Sea involving 17 NATO and non-NATO partner countries with the B-52’s role being Maritime interdiction & Mining operations.

“Saber Strike” is a land exercise over multiple locations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania involving in excess of 10,000 NATO personnel. The B-52 will be working with foreign JTACS (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) and Army units.


Major Devita, 5th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander, informed us that this years exercise there was more involvement with the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Centre) in Uedem, Germany to seamlessly integrate both the Air and Maritime assets.

Both exercises ran concurrently and due to the B-52s many different roles it was possible for the strategic bomber to take part in both exercises within the same mission although they would usually only fly one at a time due to the complex planning of each missions individually.


Major Devita did state that on a couple of occasions over the course of the deployment both would be flown in a single mission increasing the duration of the sortie past the 10 hour mark.

The mission that we witnessed launching from RAF Fairford during the visit involved two B-52s involved in a mine laying in the Baltic Sea. The B-52s would be working directly with German Eurofighters, Polish and American F-16s as well as Swedish JAS39 Grippens. Other air assets where also to be involved however not working directly with the B-52s. The sea borne maritime forces would then recover the dropped inert mines as part of an anti-mine operation simulating an enemy having laid mines in friendly waters.


Lt Col Maginness, 23rd Bomb Squadron Commander, gave an overview of the B-52s capabilities in today’s world: “if it is an Air to Ground munition the B-52 can carry it”. These munitions include laser guided, GPS guided and freefall bombs (dumb bombs), mines and the cruise missile.

The Sniper targeting pod is able to perform NTISR (non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions. This imagery can be collected, examined and translated into target coordinates for the B-52 or passed on to other players in the area. It can also be collected for other agencies for further analysis and future mission planning. The B-52 has an extensive & robust ECM suite (electronics counter measures), which allows the crew to examine the electronic threat and again analyse an appropriate response.


Future upgrades, including a fully digital communications suite called Connect and the ability to carry SMART weapons internally the laser & GPS guided munitions that are currently carried on the external wing mounted points have both been funded and upgrades taking place on the fleet.

With upgrades over the years and future upgrades coming online the B-52H is an extremely capable platform and with the huge range of the aircraft (unrefueled air 2 air) it is still a very viable asset to mission planners. With a first flight in 1952 and an out-of-service date of 2040 it’s not inconceivable that we will see 80-year-old B-52s finally retiring to the desert. Another amazing fact about its longevity is that the United States of America has only existed since 1776 so by final retirement the B-52 will have existed for almost 1/3rd of the total time that the United States of America has.


Once again Macks Aviation Photography would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to Sahara Fales, SrA, USAF of the 5th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs office in providing the opportunity to take part in this event, special thanks go to Col. Kieran Denehan, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group commander who is justifiably proud of the men & women under his command on this deployment, all of whom made this article possible.


Awesome Air-to-Air Shots of Air Refueling Operations During Anakonda-16 Exercise in Poland

U.S. tankers refuel Polish F-16s.

Anakonda-16 and Baltops-16 exercises are currently underway in Poland, involving numerous air assets.

Several combat planes operating within a realistic modern air combat scenario over the Polish territory must be supported by AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) operations.


During the last week, Filip Modrzejewski visited the Powidz Air Base, near Gniezno, where 4 U.S. Air Force KC-135 tankers from the 434th Air Refueling Wing and 100th Air Refueling Wing are stationed.


Cooperation between Foto Poork and USAF made it possible for Filip to obtain the unique shots, including photographs that depict the thirsty Polish Air Force F-16 jets getting refueled during the training operations.


The task is not easy, since the photographer needs to take a laying position, in limited space and very limited visibility.


The Polish F-16 jets are being refueled from both the 100th ARW and the 434th ARW tankers, while the presented shots have been taken from the tanker belonging to 100th ARW, operating from RAF Mildenhall.


Besides the AAR operation, Anakonda-16 exercise also featured massive airdrop, near the Torun military training range. The airborne units were tasked with taking over a bridge. The operation is still in progress and we may see more unique material coming up in the next few days.


Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski/Foto Poork