Bomber Task Force Europe 19-2/Ample Strike 2019

06/10/2019

RAF Fairford hosted a detachment of 3 Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit stealth bombers between August and September 2019.

Prior to the arrival of the jet, a number of support aircraft arrived with personnel and equipment to be able to sustain a month-long deployment. In total, 3 Boeing 747s and 2 C-17s came in with support. I saw a single C-17 and 747 on the deck together on the afternoon of August 17th. Seen below is C-17 00-0177 and 747 N919CA. 

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster 00-0177

National Airlines Boeing 747 N919CA

On August 26th a NOTAM (Notice To Air Men) was posted for RAF Fairford stating that the airfield would be open between 14:45 and 00:45 on August 27th. This was a long NOTAM, and with support already in place for B-2s, we knew it only meant one thing! 

The first arrival came at 15:20 when a U-2 arrived from the Middle East. This wasn't what we were expecting but it was certainly a welcome surprise!

USAF Lockheed Skunkworks U-2S Dragon Lady 80-1070 DRAGON22

Shortly after, 3 tankers with flying eastbound with some stealthy aircraft in tow. It became apparent that it would be a dark arrival, but who cares, Spirits are Spirits! 

DEATH11 flight of 3 B-2s was heading across the Atlantic with a predicted arrival time into Fairford of 00:30. The NOTAM was then extended to 03:40, which suggested they could well fly a short sortie into Europe first. Luckily, however, they didn't and DEATH11 fight of 2 was headed down the East Coast. They joined the Daventry corridor over East Anglia and came direct to Fairford. The first jet landed at 00:38, and the 2nd at 00:41. Question is, where was number 3? Could it have been an air spare? DEATH13 arrived at 01:22. And the second bomber deployment to Fairford was underway!

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1071 DEATH13

The first mission came on August 28th when all 3 jets departed North towards Iceland, one actually landed at Keflavik Airport. The first 2 returned around 15:00 following a 4-hour mission. Jet number 3 left Iceland later that evening and can be seen below returning to Fairford at around 18:30. At the time it was reported that the necessary infrastructure to house a B-2 deployment was being built at Keflavik, and with a B-2 deployment to Keflavik in 2021 we now know this to be true. A B-52 also diverted into Fairford on its way from the Middle East.

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1071 MYTEE22

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0002

The next day, as well as the B-52 launching for home, a pair of B-2s performed a sortie. They departed early afternoon and returned well into the evening, with a perfect sunset!  This sortie saw the pair form up with RAF Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightnings as well as Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers. Following a photo shoot the pair flew to Scotland and met a tanker for some air-to-air refuelling. Both aircraft performed an initial before landing. One pilot for this flight was in fact an RAF exchange pilot, and as far as I know this was his last flight. 

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1068 MYTEE12 (background) & USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1071 MYTEE11

The final sortie I saw was on the evening of September 11th when 2 jets returned from a sortie that took them north towards Scotland and then back down the east coast as far down as Dover. They headed back to Norfolk and then down the Daventry Radar Corridor to Fairford. I remember being stood at Rhymes crash gate and hearing MYTEE22 requesting the option for runway 27. What an incredible noise it was as the aircraft powered back up and lifted off into what was another fantastic sunset! We were then treated to the same from MYTEE21. Yet another awesome evening at the Dream Factory!

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1071 MYTEE22

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1068 MYTEE21

My final flying sighting was late evening on September 12th, when a pair returned in the dark from a mission. Each jets arrival can be seen in the links below!

Whilst the B-2s were deployed, a single B-52 was also deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base. Whilst here, the aircraft flew to a couple of European airshows. Support for this came in the form of C-17 89-1192. C-5 87-0042 was also present, but I'm unsure of the purpose of its visit. 

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 89-0129

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0041

USAF McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster 89-1192

USAF Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy 87-0042

With help from and with thanks to both the Official Fighter Control website and the RAF Fairford movements blog, the full list of aircraft involved in the deployment can be found below. 

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1068 'Spirit of New York' - 13th Bomb Squadron 'The Devils Own Grim Reapers' - 509th Bomb Wing

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 82-1071 'Spirit of Mississippi' - 13th Bomb Squadron 'The Devils Own Grim Reapers' - 509th Bomb Wing

USAF Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit 89-0129 'Spirit of Georgia' - 13th Bomb Squadron 'The Devils Own Grim Reapers' - 509th Bomb Wing

Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737 N820SY SCX8980

Atlas Air Boeing 747 N473MC GTI8982

Atlas Air Boeing 747 N464MC GTI8004

Kalitta Air Boeing 747 N402KZ CKS9443

Kalitta Air Boeing 747 N712CK CKS9445

National Airlines Boeing 747 N919CA NCR919

Omni Air International Boeing 767 N207AX CMB535

USAF McDonnell Douglas C-17A Globemaster 89-1192 RCH183 - 437th AMW

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster 00-0177 '177 Unite' RCH554 - 105th AW

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster 07-7185 RCH325 - 437th AMW

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster 99-0169 RCH302 - 437th AMW

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster 04-4130 RCH106 - 305th AMW

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0041 'Christine' - 343rd Bomb Squadron - 307th Bomb Wing

The deployment officially ended on September 30th when the final support aircraft departed for Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. With that one over, how long until the next?