It was a busy day on yesterday (Tuesday 14th October 2020) for military monitors in the UK and beyond. With Exercise Joint Warrior in the final day of activity, a Quick Reaction Alert in the Northern region and the third RAF P-8A Poseidon heading from NAS Pax River on delivery to RAF Lossiemouth, there was plenty of listening fayre to be had.

And then throw into the mix a two ship of B-52s on a Bomber Task Force Mission into Europe!

As with many things these days our first indication came via social media with a tweet from Aircraft Spots stating USAF B-52Hs LAMA11 & 13 departed Barksdale AFB, Louisiana heading across the Atlantic Ocean towards Europe, on a round trip Bomber Task Force Mission. USAF KC-10As SPUR71 & 72 provided initial tanker support from McGuire AFB.

With that news all eyes and ears were then focussed firmly on RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk as there would most likely be tanker support launching to support the B-52s on their mission. It did not take long before things started to develop with 3x KC-135s preparing for departure from RAF Mildenhall.

Shortly after midday QID 603 / 604/ 605 were tracked via www.adsbexchange.com routing over the North Sea for their planned rendezvous with LAMA 11 & 13 to conduct air-to-air refuelling before continuing their mission further into Europe.

For the HF monitors amongst us LAMA 11 flight were intercepted working Shanwick on 5649u receiving their routing instructions with a variety of common UHF frequencies being used for Swanwick Military and air-to-air refuelling operations.

The B-52s were visually spotted by eagle-eyed enthusiasts as they routed over Northern Scotland and once air-to-air refuelling was complete, the B-52s continued their mission East with QID 603 flight returning to RAF Mildenhall.

The official press release from US European Command Public Affairs reads:

Two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers departed the United States Wednesday to participate in a NATO hosted exercise over the North Sea. The flight was a demonstration of U.S. support to NATO Allies and partners and continued validation of a shared commitment to global security and stability.

Bomber crews coordinated with air and ground-based participants demonstrating Allied capability to bring distributed forces together within NATO’s operational area. The bombers acted as part of an ongoing Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission to the U.S. European Command (USEUCOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR).

The bombers, which are based at the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., were able to conduct the non-stop trans-Atlantic flight to Europe and the return flight to Louisiana with support from Dutch, German, Italian and U.S. aerial re-fuelling capabilities. This multilateral support to the BTF is an example of the strength gained through interoperability and partnership with NATO Allies and partners.

The two-week long NATO exercise involves more than 50 aircraft from across the Alliance. It is defensive, long planned and will help ensure that Allied air forces are able to operate effectively together.  

The U.S. strategic nuclear forces, such as the B-52 bomber, provide an essential military link between Europe and North America, and are a key contributor to Alliance security. The bombers offer a global strike capability anytime, anywhere around the globe.

The U.S. Air Force continues to demonstrate the ability to execute flying missions, sustain readiness and supports the health and safety of U.S. members, as well as Allies and partners, in host nations where U.S. personnel live and work despite the COVID-19 crisis response

Bomber Task Force missions continue to provide military radio and aviation enthusiasts with an exciting opportunity to track long-range bomber sorties while gaining a brief insight into some of the challenges of planning and executing these missions.

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