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Spy planes join B-52 bomber in exercise over Black Sea

A B-52 Stratofortress bomber was among several planes that converged on airspace above the Black Sea for an intelligence exercise. Photon by SSgt. Philip Bryant/U.S. Air Force  
A B-52 Stratofortress bomber was among several planes that converged on airspace above the Black Sea for an intelligence exercise. Photon by SSgt. Philip Bryant/U.S. Air Force  

Sept. 25 (UPI) -- A U.S. Air Force B-52 bomber joined Ukrainian fighter planes this week and five NATO intelligence planes in an exercise over the Black Sea this week.

The drill was part of NATO's summer Exercise Astral Knight 2o20.

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On Wednesday a B-52, one of six which traveled from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., to Britain in August, flew over the Ukraine-Romania border near the Black Sea and made a mock attack run on Odessa, Russia, before turning toward Romania.

It was briefly joined by fighter planes of the Ukrainian Air Force, and then by five intelligence planes, gathered over the Black Sea, regarded as an international waterway, to monitor Russian air defenses as they went on alert.

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The intelligence planes included RC-135Ws of the U.S. Navy and the Royal Air Force, a U.S. Air Force RC-135U, a U.S. Navy P-8 maritime patrol plane and an Raytheon Sentinel of the RAF.

Together, they spotted mobilized Russian land vehicles, noted air defense systems and listened in on Russian radio communications.

"Our team from @Team Minot has been busy!" the U.S. Strategic Command said on Wednesday in a Twitter message.

There was no comment, after the exercise, from the Russian Defense Ministry. Notably, the surveillance planes all broadcast their positions using radio transponders trackable on civilian websites.

The remaining B-52s flew missions over Eastern Europe at the same time. While the bombers used the term "HERO" in their callsigns, one, flying over Poland, used "LEMAY35."

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It was an apparent tribute to former Strategic Air Command chief Gen. Curtis LeMay, who was instrumental inbuilding the SAC to a position of dominance in the 1950s and 1960s.

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