RAF FAIRFORD, England --- More than 450 personnel and six B-52 Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, returned home following a short-term deployment to RAF Fairford, England, in support of U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force in Europe, April 11, 2019.
The BTF deployment enabled theater integration and training with joint partners, allied nations and other U.S. Air Force units, to further enhance bomber interoperability in the theater.
“There’s a lot of stuff we don’t get to do at home that we learned over here. The procedures are different, the airspaces are different and the things we do are honestly different when we train in the states,” said Lt. Col. Mike Esposito, BTF commander.
While in the U.K., missions were flown over many different areas including Norway, Iceland, Hungary, Latvia and the Baltic Sea.
“We have flown over 40 sorties over Europe and have integrated with many of our partners,” Esposito said.
The combination of U.S. forces coming together with NATO allies not only provided a message of assurance to those global partners, but similarly communicated deterrence.
“It also sends a message to possible adversaries that we are going to be comfortable operating in this area, and that we are always ready to deploy quickly should conflict ever arise,” said Maj. Gen. James Dawkins Jr., Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander. “Of course, we hope that never happens, but we have got to be able to show that we are able to do it in order to prevent a conflict from breaking out.”
The BTF rotation enabled a joint training environment for the aircrew members, as well as the support Airmen, which is different than a typical bomber rotation.
“It’s a modified wing structure that we brought in, not just a squadron. It’s different than what we’ve done at say, Al Udeid, where we just bring airplanes, aviators and maintainers on to a base that is fully built out,” Dawkins said. “Yes, there is a good support network here, but we are bringing that wing construct and bringing all the support organizations together and fighting as an entire unit at a much broader level.”
“I think that is going to set the stage for future operations because we need to be lethal and agile,” Dawkins added. “And to be lethal right now we need to be agile - that’s agile combat support, agile deployability and that’s deploying in small units like a six-ship like we did here.”
Success for the BTF came from Airmen from Barksdale, as well as members from the 501st Combat Support Wing at Fairford.
“The 501st has just been a fantastic mission partner. Everything from standing up billeting for our people to bringing in specialized cooks to run the [dining facility] for us making the great food, to the [Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication] system that they have here to bring the fuel on for the bombers, it is a class act here and its growing in capability,” Dawkins said. “Make no mistake, what we have here is fantastic, it’s everything we need – actually a little bit more.”
The deployment of strategic bombers to the United Kingdom helps exercise Fairford as U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s forward operating location for bombers. Dawkins and Esposito are grateful for the hospitality of the local community and the U.K. Working together with U.S. allies is a vital part to the success of BTF missions.
“For us in the U.S., warfighting is an away game. We also do it as a coalition, we don’t do it alone,” Esposito said. “Coming out here and getting to integrate with so many different European partners and flying over so many different places is how we can really practice the way we will fight in the future.”