Bomber Deployment
RAF Fairford
June 2017

Between the 1st and 9th of June 2017 the USAF arrived at RAF Fairford in a force size not seen outside of wartime operations in the 1990's with a total of 8 aircraft arriving.

The aircraft involved were:

During the weeks before the Global strike aircraft arrived several civilian charter flights and a C-5 Galaxy bought in 800+ personnel and equipment needed for such a large scale exercise deployment.

The 1st strike aircraft to arrive were the B-52H Stratofortresses, 2 of these flew from their Barksdale homebase, at least one of the pair of these B-52's flew direct to the exercise area of Artic Challenge in Northern Scandinavia before finally touching down at RAF Fairford. This was the only involvement in Artic Challenge by the B-52 as the exercise finished on the 2nd June. A 3rd example arrived from a forward deployment location.

Two B-1B Lancers of the 28th Bomb Wing arrived on the 7th June as a pair performing a run and break to land, the third example landed the following day.

Stars of the deployment and a welcome return to the UK were the 2x B-2A Spirits from Whiteman AFB. These arrived on Sunday having flown from their homebase to the East Anglian bombing range at RAF Holbeach where they performed several passes over the targets before landing at RAF Fairford.

The deployment of these Global strike assets coincided with 3 major European exercices, these were Artic Challenge, BALTOPS & Sabre Strike. Each of the exercises were multi agency and multi national affairs involving both NATO members and NATO partner countries.

Colonel Kevin Cullen, Commander of the 501st Combat Support Wing (501st CSW) explained to gathered media and guests on the 12th June that RAF Fairford directly enables Global Strike Capabilities, RAF Fairford is the United States Air Forces In Europe Primary Bomber Forward operating location. During normal day to day operations the unit is manned by just 7 US Civilians & 57 British nationals who ensure that the base is ready to be fully activated at a moments notice. The 501st CSW provides combat support to enable global strike operations, intelligence gathering and communications from nearly 70 different locations across the UK and Norway.

Lt General Richard Clark, 3rd Air Force and 17th Expeditionary AF Commander, explained that the deployment marks the first time all three strategic bombers have operated together in Europe at the same time. The exercises the bombers are taking part in are Artic Challenge, Baltops and Sabre Strike the approximate duration of the deployment from start to finish was 3 weeks.

Images on various days during the three week period of the deployment

Here are a selection of the patches the various crews wore during the media day visit

Once again Macks Aviation Photography would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to 501st Combat Support Wing Group Public Affairs office in providing the opportunity to take part in this event, special thanks go to TSgt THOMASSON, and the other aircrew and groundcrews all of whom made this article possible

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