Three B-52s arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, on Wednesday. (US Air Force)
The US Air Force plans to temporarily deploy heavy bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons to Europe one day after President Obama announced he would increase the US military presence in the region.
Two B-52 Stratofortresses bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and one B-52 from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota — currently operating from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota — arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, on Wednesday, where airmen will train and integrate with US and allied military forces in the region, the Air Force said in a news release.
“During this deployment, which will span approximately two weeks, the multi-role heavy bombers will conduct training flights in the U.S. European Command area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region,” the release states.
The move comes amid Russian aggression in Eastern Europe where Moscow has annexed Crimea from Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Russian troops are also said to be massed along the border with Ukraine.
Obama on Tuesday called for Congress to approve $1 billion dollars to boost a rotational U.S. troops presence in Europe.
In March, the US repositioned F-15 and F-16 fighters to Lithuania and Poland.
“The Department of Defense routinely conducts training missions in support of geographic combatant commands to ensure the US has a credible and flexible capability to respond to a variety of potential threats,” the release said. “Bomber operations enhance this capability by providing the President a variety of options he may need to protect the nation or its allies and partners,” it said.
A B-52 will also take part in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in Graignes, France, on June 7 in recognition of the legacy of the US Eighth Air Force in the Allied invasion of Normandy in World War II, according to the release.
RAF Fairford has hosted B-52s over the years, most recently during the Iraq War in 2003. The US Air Force has maintained a presence at the base since the 1950s. It is jointly maintained by RAF and U.S. personnel in support of contingency operations.
The B-52 is a long-range, multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. B-52s can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.
Deployed aircraft will not bring live weapons into the United Kingdom, the release said.