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Air Force Featured Stories

Minot B-52s begin Baltops 16 flying ops

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sahara L. Fales
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
A B-52H Stratofortress aircrew from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted their first flying training mission in support of the multinational exercise Baltops 16 on June 7 from Royal Air Force Fairford.

Baltops is an ongoing cooperative training effort to promote security in the Baltic region with participants from about 17 nations. The training exercise allows participants to demonstrate their own unique roles in contributing to regional and global stability and to train for deployments in support of multinational contingency operations.

“There is a lot going on in this exercise,” said Lt. Col. Mike Maginness, the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. “We will be all over the region working with many multinational partners, doing everything from cruise missile training and sea mining, to targeting pod work with the joint terminal attack controllers. It’s a great opportunity for our crews to integrate across the entire spectrum of capabilities that the B-52 has, as well as train with our allies.”

Baltops provides an opportunity for NATO partner nations to engage in realistic maritime training to build experience, teamwork and strengthen interoperability.

“In today’s world, we will very rarely go at any fight alone,” Maginness said. “We have staunch allies throughout the region; our traditional NATO partners have been with us for the last 70 years. It is important to train how we fight, and this a tremendous opportunity to do so, while demonstrating United States’ commitment in the region.”

Air Force officials also stated that another important feature of this deployment to RAF Fairford is the ability to take an operating location, which typically isn’t active, and stand up an active workplace and start pushing operations in a short amount of time.

“This is what we would do in a real-world situation so practicing it and knowing that we have that capability just makes us a more effective force,” Maginness said.

During the first B-52 mission, the aircrew integrated with allies and practiced overcoming language barriers to execute the mission. Participants varied from Swedish airborne warning and control system controllers, to NATO Navy vessels and U.S. F-16 Fighting Falcons in an air interdiction and force employment exercise.

“This was a great beginning to a complex and comprehensive exercise,” said Capt. Patrick Clements, a 23rd EBS flight commander. “We just went out and had a fighter intercept exercise involving other players -- not just in the air. Later on this week we’re going to ramp up and push our allies as well as ourselves during a Navy and Air Force mining exercise.”

During sorties, the strategic bombers are scheduled to conduct training flights with ground and naval forces around the region to showcase their capability to project airpower anywhere and anytime. This is the third year Air Force Global Strike Command has participated in this exercise as part of their deployment to the European area of responsibility.

For 10 days, the aircrew will fly more missions in support of exercises Baltops 16 and Saber Strike 16. In addition, the B-52 will make appearances in several air shows throughout countries such as Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.