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B-1s, B-2s conclude Bomber Task Force mission over Europe

B-2 bombers, pictured at Lajes Field, Azores, on March 22, this week concluded their participation in a Bomber Task Force mission across Europe. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar/U.S. Air Force
B-2 bombers, pictured at Lajes Field, Azores, on March 22, this week concluded their participation in a Bomber Task Force mission across Europe. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Salazar/U.S. Air Force

March 26 (UPI) -- The Bomber Task Mission exercise across Europe, involving B-1B Lancers and B-2 stealth bombers, concluded successfully this week, the U.S. Air Force announced on Friday.

The exercise included a series of integrations with aircraft of allies, sorties above the Arctic Circle, support for Norwegian and Swedish aircraft, joint terminal attack controller training and participation in the Icelandic Air Policing mission, the Air Force said.

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The deployment started in early February, U.S. Air Force officials said at the time, to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance.

The bombers were deployed to Lajes, Azores, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Miss., and Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.

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B-1s landed in Norway, landed above the Arctic Circle and landed in Poland, all unprecedented events, as part of the mission.

At Powidz Air Force Base in Poland, a plane executed a "hot-pit refuel," in which it was refueled with engines running and its crew remaining in the cockpit, for the first time in Europe -- a maneuver demonstrating NATO's Agile Combat Employment capability.

From Norway, the B-1s flew nine sorties, integrating with allies from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Germany and Italy in support of NATO's Baltic Air Policing.

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B-2s flew four missions above the Arctic Circle, known in Air Force jargon as "the High North."

The B-2s integrated with the B-1s and Norwegian F-35s currently supporting NATO's Icelandic Air Policing mission, serving Iceland, a NATO member without a standing military force.

"Looking back at everything our Airmen have accomplished in the past month is pretty incredible," Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander, said in a press release.

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"This iteration of BTF demonstrated our unwavering commitment to the security and stability of Europe, provided vital opportunities to strengthen our bonds with allies and partners and allowed our Airmen to develop and refine skills that are necessary for the future success of our air operations," said Harrigan.

The Bomber Task Force mission was intended to demonstrate unity among allies and test rapid response scenarios.

Soon after the planned arrival of the B-1s was announced, Russia responded with a 12-hour pass over Europe of two of its Tu-160 heavy bombers, escorted in some places by MiG-31 fighter planes.

The 6,000-mile route from western Russia included the Arctic Ocean, the Norwegian Sea and Norway's coast.

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