About 15,000 troops, including 2,000 of non-NATO member Sweden, 40 aircraft and helicopters, about a thousand vehicles and several ships and boats are currently kicking a** in Northern and Central Norway. Exercise Cold Response included the taking of the normally peaceful village of Namsos, situated on the shores of beautiful fjords.
The 7th edition of the multinational winter war exercise hosted by Norway brings units from mainly NATO countries together, to show what they can as “bad” and “good” force against each other. To train for a possible real war scenario and to show NATO’s current strange “friend” Russia that the North American-European alliance still can.
US Air Force Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers are soon to deploy into Swedish airspace for the first time on an operational training mission which involves the release of a weapons load, according to sources within the Swedish Armed Forces. On Saturday 13 June a pair of “Buffs” will drop sea mines in the Baltic Sea near the Swedish Southeast coast.
The drop is an operational training in covering the flanks of an amphibious operation. According to the plan the B-52s are to fly non-stop from the US and return back home. The bombers’ deployment is part of Baltops 2015, the yearly multinational NATO / Partnership for Peace exercise that will take place from 5 to 20 June this year.
Approx. location (released to the general public) of the planned B-52 sea mine drop on 13 June 2015
Seventeen nations will participate in Baltops 2015, bringing together 4,500 troops, 60 surface vessels and boats, about 50 combat aircraft and helicopters plus a Polish Navy submarine. The operational area will take place in Swedish, Danish, Polish and international waters and air space. Many of the participating aircraft will fly from their homebases. Air sorties will include reconnaissance, in-flight refuelling, close air support, air combat and air-sea cooperation.
The B-52 sea mine drop is an interesting choice. During the Cold War NATO and Sweden had a secret plan to insert a large US Marine Corps force into the Skåne region of Sweden, in case of a Russian invasion of Western Europe. The Marines were to safeguard the Öresund (The Sound) – the narrow shipping lane between Malmö (Sweden) and Copenhagen (Denmark) that gives entry control to the Baltic Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.
Recently the US and NATO have grown more close, both military and politically, with non-NATO members Sweden and Finland in an attempt to future-secure the Baltic Sea area while the Russian military is increasing its military projection there.
In a show of force that gave fighter jocks of allied nations some fun the US Air Force sent four of its B-52H Stratofortress bombers on a long mission over the Arctic and North Sea this week. The mission appears very similar to what the Russian Air Force is doing with its long-range strategic bombers and gave the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 Hornets, the Royal Air Force’s Typhoons and the Royal Netherlands Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons an excellent opportunity to intercept planes of a more friendly nature.
UPDATE 7 April | See here and here for great shots of Dutch F-16s intercepting the Stratofortress.
All over Europe Bears, Backfires and other Russian winged hardware has been causing hundreds of intercepts over the last 12 months, like by RAF Typhoons in January, with the Russian planes sometimes even disturbing civilian air traffic, according to NATO and Scandinavian aviation authorities.
With the pairs of “Buffs” from Barksdale and Minot air force bases, the RCAF, RAF and RNLAF got some good training opportunity. “The bomber crews flying the North Sea route participated in dissimilar air intercept manoeuvers with fighter aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K.’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.”
“In addition to conducting dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with Royal Canadian Air Force fighters, bomber crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation,” Senior Airman Benjamin Raughton of the 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs writes.
UPDATED 20 FEBRUARY 2015 | Probably the best US Air Force product ever is not that fancy, stealthy F-22 Raptor, but a big bad bomber which had its first flight in 1952. It is actually so good that it can decay in the Arizona desert for years and still make it back to the flight line for a new call of duty.
Her name is somewhat not fancy 61-0007 and time has taken its toll on her. Yet this is the US Air Force’s newest strategic bomber. Re-added to the fleet of 76 active B-52H Stratofortresses this week. The Buff, as people like the call the fat lady, flew to its new home of Barksdale Air Force Base for additional maintenance and upgrade modifications to make her one of the dames again. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) prepped her well enough for her delivery flight from Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, where thousands of aircraft enjoy the sunshine of the Boneyard. Many will never make it back in the air, but 61-0007 is an exception.
The last of 744 B-52s was delivered in 1962. With arms reductions in place the fleet was slowly reduced to its current strength: 76 airplanes filling three squadrons of the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale and two of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota; plus some lose guns on Nellis AFB, Edwards AFB and the occasional visitor to Tinker AFB where the B-52 System Program Office is located.
When one of the 76 Buff’s was severely damaged in 2014, Minot’s office fixed it with something unexpected: to get a stored B-52H back from the dead. The AMARG choose 61-0007, a former “Ghost Rider” from Minot AFB, which had parts of her surface covered with plast-paint to protect it against the elements, mainly for salvaging parts for the active fleet.
Some aircraft at the Boneyard are lucky and do make it back to a flying career. “But this is the first re-commissioning of a B-52 in Air Force history,” says retired Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Finch working with the USAF’s Global Strike Command talking to USAF journalist Kimberly Woodruff.
The ferry flight of the old plane was somewhat special. Only three people on board – more were not available – plain navigation without any digital aids and from start to landing with gear down all the way. The Shreveport Times put together a nice story on it.
We wish the US Air Force’s newest bomber a happy comeback career. After being away since 2004 she sure must feel awesome to be back in the blue yonder.
If there’s one type of military aircraft that gets better with age, it’s the B-52 Stratofortress. A Boeing update turns the already deadly aircraft in an even deadlier one. The update consists of a new weapons bay launcher that change improves the aircraft’s weapons capacity and mission flexibility.
The upgrade modifies an existing common strategic rotary launcher into a conventional rotary launcher, enabling the US Air Force’s B-52s to carry smart weapons in the weapons bay. The bomber has been able to carry guided weapons on its wing pylons for years but adding this capability in the bay increases the quantity and variety of B-52 weapons carriage. The option to fly the aircraft with no visible weapons on its wings, offers crew members greater mission flexibility to adapt to changing conditions on the ground.
“This upgrade allows us to provide better close air support for army personnel on the ground and future increments improve our strategic attack capability, a cornerstone of the B-52. Being able to go and perform long-range strikes on night one of an operation and carrying an additional eight cruise missiles in the bay is huge,” said Capt. Ryan Hefron, B-52 pilot with the US.Air Force 419th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base.
Flying without visible weapons on the wings, known as “clean wing,” provides tactical advantages as well as fuel savings by reducing wind resistance. Mike Houk, Boeing’s B-52 sustainment program manager: “We estimate fuel savings to be 15 percent when the B-52 flies without wing mounted weapons. Clean wing also means that adversaries don’t know what weapons the B-52 is carrying.”
Boeing engineers have created three prototypes for the new launcher, the first of which is now being tested. Close cooperation between Boeing and the U.S. Air Force allowed all three prototypes to be delivered ahead-of-schedule.Military crews will continue field testing the new launcher prototypes at Edwards until March, when flight tests commence.