All eyes and ears are still very much on RAF Fairford, with three B-2 Stealth Bombers from the 509th Bomber Wing, remaining on Temporary Duty (TDY) having arrived on 27th August.
There’s been some excellent flying since their arrival with a historic hot refuel and the first ever landing at Iceland and some breath-taking photos in formation with 2x F35 Lightnings from the RAF with the backdrop of the White Cliffs of Dover.
After a busy few days and a media event held on Friday 30th August, it was very much anticipated things woud remain quiet over the course of the weekend, and also crucially on Monday 2nd September as it was Labour Day in the USA. Nothing could be further from the truth though. While the American military machine across the Globe took its foot off the gas for the day, it was all go at RAF Fairford.
With RAF Fairford not having any aircraft permanently based there, it makes life a bit easier for the aviation and military radio monitoring enthusiasts, to find out when things are likely to move.
As the airbase isn’t permanently active as an airfield, a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) is required to notify the aviation community that the airbase is active during a certain period of time, and also to advise the likelihood of military traffic being the vicinity. It also gives the hobby aviation and radio community the vital information they need.
When this NOTAM appeared early on Monday morning, it looked set to be an interesting day!
U3787/19 – FAIRFORD MIL ATZ ACTIVE. AD AND RWY 09/27 OPEN. 02 SEP 06:30 2019 UNTIL 02 SEP 19:00 2019. CREATED: 02 SEP 05:08 2019
Shortly after 8am, DEATH 11 and 12 departed RAF Fairford, being picked up on Swanwick Military 275.625MHz and then Scottish Military 282.625MHz routing SHAWBURY and then STORNOWAY. The routing quickly led to speculation online that the aircraft may be homeward bound, especially as they were using the same callsign as their initial arrival.
The panic quickly subsided however when DEATH 11/12 were back with Swanwick Military 252.875MHz, reportedly working around the area of RAF Valley with two F-35 Lightnings from RAF Marham also coincidently operating in the same area!
Just after 1pm, DEATH 11 and 12 landed back at RAF Fairford and in less than two hours, were both airborne again, this time using the callsigns MYTEE 21 and 22. After disappearing north for a few hours, MYTEE 21 and 22 were heard again working Scottish Military and then Swanwick military routing back to RAF Fairford, once again via VALLEY, with both aircraft back on the deck before 8pm.
What was expected to be a ‘quiet’ day quickly turned into two separate sorties, albeit with the same airframes – Spirit of Mississippi and Spirit of Georgia.
Fast forward 24 hours to Tuesday morning and another NOTAM appeared indication imminent action.
U3801/19 – FAIRFORD MIL ATZ ACTIVE. AD AND RWY 09/27 OPEN. 03 SEP 06:30 2019 UNTIL 03 SEP 15:30 2019. CREATED: 03 SEP 05:06 2019
Just before 8am, MYTEE 21 and 22 were airborne once again and intercepted routing SHAWBURY then STORNOWAY and expecting to arrive back at RAF Fairford in around five hours.
Just before 1pm, both aircraft were once again on the ground, with reports across social media of ground crews and support equipment surrounding both aircraft, indicating no more flying for the day.
So far on this deployment, the B-2s seem to be spending a considerable amount of time in the north of Scotland and beyond. Where exactly they go is anyone’s guess however the flight profile of routing out via Stornoway makes for some interesting thoughts.
If it’s a show of force they are aiming to achieve, routing out to the north and possibly east would make perfect sense however is pure speculation on my part. The speculation also extends to just how long the B-2s are going to be in the UK for. Mainstream media reports state this is a two-month deployment, however there’s been nothing official announced in anything forthcoming from the USAF.
With Exercise Ample Strike just around the corner and the likelihood of B-52 Heavy Metal also joining the party, the best advice is to enjoy this rare occurrence and make the most of the opportunities it presents. I can’t help but feel however this could be the start of something bigger and more long term for RAF Fairford.
I guess only time will tell…