RAF FAIRFORD, United Kingdom --
Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers joined B-1B Lancers and B-52H Stratofortresses June 9 to participate in theater bomber assurance and deterrence operations.
Three B-52Hs from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and three B-1Bs from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., along with approximately 800 Airmen, are currently supporting exercises Saber Strike and BALTOPS in the U.S. European Theater.
While not actively participating in ongoing regional exercises, the B-2s join the other Air Force Global Strike Command assets in support of recurring bomber assurance and deterrence operations. Bomber deployments enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any contingency or challenge across the globe.
"The bomber assurance and deterrence missions these three aircraft are supporting are key to reinforcing our commitment to our allies in NATO -- in a very visible, very tangible way -- that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, no matter what," said U.S. Air Force Col. Jared Kennish, 322nd Air Expeditionary Group commander.
U.S. Strategic Command routinely conducts bomber operations across the globe as a demonstration of commitment to collective defense and to integrate with geographic combatant commands operations and activities. This is the first time that all three bomber platforms have been located together in the European theater, and only the second time total in AFGSC command history; the first was in Guam in August 2016.
"This short-term deployment demonstrates the flexible global strike capabilities of the U.S. bomber force, and ensures bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness," said Kennish. "The training will provide opportunities to integrate capabilities with regional partners, and is part of the United States' commitment to supporting global security."
A number of total-force Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base are supporting the B-2 operation. Many, including Kennish, are members of the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing. The Guard wing has cleared a number of operational performance evaluations and readiness assessments to obtain full operational capability to perform the strategic bomber mission of the B-2 alongside the active duty 509th Bomb Wing, at home and at Fairford.
Members of the 131st BW have been a part of every previous bomber assurance and deterrence operation; however, this is the first time that the operations of all three strategic bombers has been led by a Guardsman, further signaling the full arrival of the total force construct in Air Force Global Strike Command.
"There may have been a time early in our transition when people wondered if our two wings could make [total force integration] work in the B-2 operations, maintenance and support missions, but we've long since proved the concept at Whiteman," said Kennish. "Operations like the ones we're supporting this month just put an exclamation point on our record of total-force team success."