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B-2 bombers deploy to Europe

B-2 bombers deploy to Europe
A B-2 bomber task force arrived at Lajes Field in Portugal on Monday for the start of a series of training operations in Europe. Photo courtesy of U.S. European Command

March 9 (UPI) -- B-2 stealth bombers deployed to Portugal for training and integration into the European theater of operations, the U.S. European Command on Monday confirmed.

A U.S. Air Force task force including B-2 strategic bombers and KC-10 refueling planes left the United States and arrived on Monday at Lajes Field in Portugal's Azores Islands, Eucom said in a statement.

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The task force joined the 65th Air Base Group stationed at the base, which is regarded as a secure location for refueling and maintenance, though the bombers will travel to several bases in Europe during the deployment.

"The aircraft will operate out of various military installations in the U.S. European Command's area of responsibility," the EUCOM statement said. "Strategic bomber deployments to Europe provide theater familiarization for aircrew members and demonstrate U.S. commitment to allies and partners."

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First flown 30 years ago, the B-2 Spirit offers stealth technology designed for penetrating dense anti-aircraft defenses which can deploy both conventional and thermonuclear weapons, including up to 80 500-pound class Global Positioning System-guided bombs, or 16 2,400-pound B83 nuclear bombs. It remains the only known aircraft that can carry large air-to-surface standoff weapons in a stealth configuration.

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The task force now in the Azores is from the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings of Whiteman AFB, Mo. The KC-10 planes of the 305th Air Mobility Wing are stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

A similar deployment was ordered by the U.S. Air Force in August. Strategic bomber deployments to Europe have recently increased because of concerns about Russian aggression on the continent.

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