On Aug. 28, six U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota flew over all 30 NATO international locations in a single day.
Yes, even Canada.
This theatrical show of air energy wasn’t only for present. It apparently additionally was the bait in a carefully-planned intelligence-gathering operation focusing on Russian air-defenses across the Black Sea.
The Air Force on Aug. 22 flew six B-52s from Minot to the Royal Air Force base at Fairford. The bombers flew over the Arctic—the place the Russian navy lately staged a mock amphibious touchdown—across the similar time as a rarely-seen U.S. Navy submarine, USS Seawolf, additionally handed underneath the North Pole ice.
Six days later 4 of the bombers at Fairford, plus two nonetheless within the United States, took off within the morning and fanned out throughout Canada and Europe earlier than returning to base within the afternoon.
They flew greater than 20,000 ft at prime speeds exceeding 400 miles per hour.
Of the United Kingdom-based B-52s, one flew over NATO’s Nordic members. Another headed throughout the Baltic area. A 3rd flew west to cross over Portugal and Spain. A dizzying array of alliance fighters—British Typhoons, French Mirage 2000s, Belgian F-16s, Czech Gripens, Romanian and Croatian MiG-21s, Bulgarian MiG-29s, Italian F-35s—joined up with the bombers.
The fourth B-52, call-sign “NATO01,” had essentially the most attention-grabbing flight path. NATO01, a B-52H in-built 1961, headed for the Black Sea, which because the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014 steadily has turn out to be extra harmful. Russian warships and fighters crisscross the ocean. Russian air-defense techniques ring it.
Understanding these Russian defenses is prime job of NATO intelligence. Which apparently is why, when NATO01 flew by means of worldwide air area over the Black Sea, two U.S. Air Force RC-135V/W Rivet Joints have been close by.
The four-engine RC-135V/Ws are electronic-intelligence techniques. Using delicate receivers, they pay attention for, and assist to catalogue, enemy radars and different sensors. The U.S. Air Force has simply 17 RC-135V/Ws. Committing two of them to a single mission … is an enormous deal.
Russian forces went on alert as NATO01 handed by means of. Two armed Su-27 fighters flew so near the B-52 that their afterburners rocked the eight-engine bomber.
“Actions like these increase the potential for midair collisions, are unnecessary and inconsistent with good airmanship and international flight rules,” mentioned Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander.
But the identical Russian response—not solely fighter-intercepts however sea- and ground-base air-defense efforts—doubtless handed the RC-135V/Ws plenty of attention-grabbing information.