TechAmerican B-52 bombers begin NATO exercises in Europe

American B‑52 bombers begin NATO exercises in Europe

B-52 - illustrative photo
B-52 - illustrative photo
Images source: © USAF | Airman 1st Class Gerald Willis

8:21 AM EDT, May 24, 2024

Four long-range strategic bombers, the B-52H Stratofortress belonging to the United States Air Force, have arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford in the United Kingdom to commence Bomber Task Force (BTF) Europe 24-3. The aircraft will participate in exercises with NATO allies and partners. According to Defence Romania, it cannot be ruled out that they will fly near the border with the Russian Federation, in the vicinity of the Kaliningrad Oblast and the Crimean Peninsula.

The Allied Air Command (AIRCOM) noted, "BFT missions enable U.S. joint forces to train with Allies and partners to improve shared understanding, trust, and interoperability." Defence Romania points out that the primary tasks of the B-52H in this region will be joint exercises with allies and partners, potentially conducting strikes in the European theater of operations. It also notes that the American bombers are likely to fly near the border with the Russian Federation, particularly around the Kaliningrad Oblast and the Crimean Peninsula.

American B-52H bombers in Europe

"BTF 24-3 will demonstrate Agility in a dynamic security environment and global strike capabilities in support of assurance and deterrence objectives also in a NATO context with one focus on the Baltic region," reported the Allied Air Command (AIRCOM).

The B-52 bombers are iconic machines that have been in service since 1954. Despite their age, there are no current plans to retire this fleet. However, the U.S. Air Force plans to comprehensively modernize the bombers, potentially extending their operational life to 100 years. The Pentagon plans to allocate nearly $50 billion for this purpose. The modernization will include replacing engines, upgrading avionics, increasing the weapons bay, and installing a new radar.

Between 1954 and 1962, 744 B-52 bombers were produced for the United States Air Force. Currently, 10 percent of that fleet remains in operation. These units, built between 1960 and 1962, belong to the B-52H version. Each bomber has a length of approximately 164 feet, a height of 41 feet, and a wingspan of nearly 187 feet. The aircraft is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines and can fly at speeds exceeding 620 mph at a maximum altitude of over 50,000 feet. In its takeoff configuration, the aircraft weighs 282 tons, with over 68 tons allocated for weapons and 399,000 pounds for fuel, providing a range exceeding 10,000 miles in the B-52H version.

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