A B-2 bomber refueled at Lajes Field, Azores, before traveling to the Arctic Circle for exercises with the Norwegian Air Force this weekend. Photo by TSgt. Heather Salazar/U.S. Air Force
March 22 (UPI) -- A U.S. B-2 bomber and F-35 fighter planes of Norway's air force executed a night exercise near the Arctic Circle, the U.S. Air Force announced on Monday.
The bomber, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flew from Lajes Field, Azores, and integrated with four F-35 of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The Norwegian planes are involved in the Icelandic Policing Mission, a NATO operation begun in 2006 and conducted to patrol airspace over Iceland, a NATO member without an air force or standing military force.
"Executing this mission is no small feat," Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and NATO Allied Air Command, said in a press release.
"Integrating fourth and fifth generation aircraft alongside our Norwegian allies is a critical strategic capability for the future success of NATO operations," Harrigian said.
The United States and Norway have conducted mutual integration and interoperability training in what the U.S. Air Force calls the "High North" since September 2020.
"The aircraft carried out complex operations at night after beginning the mission from three different bases on two continents," the U.S. Air Force said in the release. "The sortie provided an opportunity for the aircraft to advance their cross-platform data-sharing capabilities, improving 5th generation interoperability."
U.S. Bomber Task Force missions have recently increased, notably in the Arctic Ocean and on Russia's northern perimeter.
A B-1B Lancer conducted a joint terminal attack exercise, involving fighter planes of Norway and Sweden, earlier in March. It included a "warm-pit refuel" at Bodø Air Force Station in Norway and integration with four Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft.
Two B-2s also integrated with two B-1Bs deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to Orland Air Force Station, Norway, in March for Bomber Task Force Europe 21-1, an exercise off the coast of Iceland.
In February, two B-1 bombers flew a show of force near Russian naval bases, the first since being deployed to Norway earlier in the month.
Two B-1Bs flew directly over the North Pole to Greenland as part of a two-week training mission in conjunction with Norway's air force in Sept. 2020. In May 2020, B-1Bs also integrated with English, Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian aircraft for exercises that included the bombers' first flight over Sweden.