B-52 bomber

Two pairs of US Air Force’s (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress bombers participated in a US Strategic Command (STRATCOM)-directed long-range exercise over the Arctic and North Sea regions.

The training mission was code-named Polar Growl. It saw B-52s complete simultaneous, round-trip sorties from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, to the Arctic and North Sea regions, respectively.

STRATCOM commander admiral Cecil Haney said: "These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally recognised flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination.

"Exercises and operations such as these bomber flights enable and enhance relationships with STRATCOM’s allies and partners."

"They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols, and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space.

"Exercises and operations such as these bomber flights enable and enhance relationships with our allies and partners, and allow others to understand what capabilities US Strategic Command brings to the equation."

Each of the two phases of the exercise provided unique training opportunities for the aircrews, while validating the bomber force’s command and control apparatus’ ability to support two synchronised flight paths.

The aircrews flying the North Sea route conducted dissimilar air intercept manoeuvres with fighter aircraft belonging to the air forces of Canada, Netherlands, and the UK.

In addition, the crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation.

USAF 343rd Bomb Squadron instructor radar navigator major Nathan Barnhart said: "The long-range nature of the mission, coupled with the opportunity to interact in real-time with allied aircraft was an invaluable experience that simply can’t be replicated out of the cockpit.

"Training like this ensures we are ready to respond to any and all mission directives across the globe."

Image: A USAF B-52H Stratofortress receives fuel from a New Hampshire Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker near the eastern coast of Canada. Photo: courtesy of Air National Guard photo / Airman Ashlyn J Correia.