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Minot AFB B-52s begin BALTOPS 16 flying operations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sahara L. Fales
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
B-52H Stratofortress aircrew members from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted their first flying training mission in support of the multi-national exercise BALTOPS 16 June 7, from RAF Fairford, United Kingdom.

BALTOPS 16 is an ongoing cooperative training effort with participants from approximately 17 different nations throughout the region. The training exercise allows participants to demonstrate their own unique roles in contributing to regional and global stability and to train for deployments in support of multinational contingency operations around the world.

“There is a lot going on in this exercise,” said Lt. Col. Mike Maginness, 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. “We will be all over the region working with many multinational partners, doing everything from cruise missile training and sea mining, to targeting pod work with the joint terminal attack controllers. It’s a great opportunity for our crews to integrate across the entire spectrum of capabilities that the B-52 has, as well as train with our allies.”

BALTOPS provides an opportunity for NATO partner nations to engage in realistic maritime training to build experience, teamwork and strengthen interoperability in order to promote security of the Baltic region.

“In today’s world, we will very rarely go at any fight alone,” Maginness said. “We have staunch allies throughout the region; our traditional NATO partners have been with us for the last 70 years. It is important to train how we fight, and this a tremendous opportunity to do so, while demonstrating United States commitment in the region.”

Air Force officials also stated that another important feature of this deployment to RAF Fairford is the ability to take an operating location, which typically isn’t active, and stand up an active workplace and start pushing operations in a short amount of time.

“This is what we would do in a real world situation so practicing it and knowing that we have that capability just makes us a more effective force,” the squadron commander said.

During the first B-52 mission, the aircrew integrated with allies and practiced overcoming language barriers to execute the mission. Participants varied from Swedish airborne warning and control system controllers, to NATO Navy vessels, and U.S. F-16s in an air interdiction and force employment exercise.

“This was a great beginning to a complex and comprehensive exercise,” said Capt. Patrick Clements, 23rd EBS flight commander. “We just went out and had a fighter intercept exercise involving other players -- not just in the air. Later on this week we’re going to ramp up and push our allies as well as ourselves during a Navy and Air Force mining exercise.”

During sorties, the strategic bombers are scheduled to conduct training flights with ground and naval forces around the region to showcase their capability to project airpower anywhere and anytime. This is the third year Air Force Global Strike Command has participated in this exercise as part of their deployment to the European area of responsibility.

Over the next ten days, the aircrew will be flying more missions in support of exercises BALTOPS 16 and Saber Strike 16. In addition, the B-52 will be making its appearance in several airshows throughout countries such as Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.