Bomber Task Force Europe 20-4

04/10/2020

By far the weirdest start to a deployment I'd ever seen came the morning of August 22nd, 2020, when, essentially unknown to the UK spotters, no less than 6 B-52s arrived at RAF Fairford from the USA. TORE51 flight of 6 had left Minot hours earlier and flew with the Norwegian Air Force over the Norwegian Sea. It could have quite easily been a Global Power Mission but on a massive scale! It wasn't until they were over the North Sea and were given a direct route to the Daventry Corridor that spotters put 2 and 2 together. I'll never forget waking up to find multiple missed calls on my phone, and when I rang back, imagine my surprise to hear that 6 B-52s were on the deck at Fairford, I thought I was being had on! As far as I am concerned, this is how the deployments should be started!

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0029

With this news, and with no equipment on the deck, I made the call to get to Fairford ASAP, in case they had all diverted in. The next day, however, support started arriving from Minot on board an Atlas Air Boeing 747 and a USAF Boeing C-17. That C-17 made a total of 3 visits between August 23rd and 28th. The crews arrived on 25th August on an Omni Air International Boeing 777. 

The first flight came on Thursday 27th when 2 jets departed on a local sortie to the North Sea. It is my understanding that during this sortie they took on fuel from a French Air Force A330 MRTT. The clouds cleared in the nick of time and I was able to see both roar past my house at low altitude, a great start to the exercise!

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0044 NARES02

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0007 NARES01

Despite me not seeing the flight on Friday 28th, it was a historic one worth mentioning as 4 B-52s left Fairford and visited every NATO country in one day. The mission was dubbed 'Allied Sky' and was a huge success, as 6 B-52s in total from the 5th Bomb Wing visited every NATO country. The Fairford-based aircraft spent the day flying across Europe while 2 launched from their home base to cover the USA and Canada. A remarkable achievement!

The first mission I made it to the base for was on 31st August when 3 jets departed on a sortie around Europe. I was at the base for the arrivals, which started with 61-0034 DUMP11 at roughly 19:30. The aircraft performed an initial to runway 27 before landing. The next jet, 60-0005 DUMP12, did the same and landed at roughly 19:50. DUMP13 suffered an issue that caused it to have to declare an emergency. I don't remember exactly what the issue was, but I recall it came back on 7 engines, which doesn't sound like much of a problem for an aircraft that's got 8 engines, but what do I know?! Fire engines surrounded the aircraft once it was safely back on the deck, and once they'd declared it ok, the jet was taxied back to its hardstand. 

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 61-0034 DUMP11

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortess 60-0005 DUMP12

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0044 DUMP13 (I apologize for the photo quality)! I also apologise for the quality of the video below. 

I also caught the sortie the next day, with a single jet departing to a bombing range in Germany. It can be seen below returning from the mission. 

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0007 YANKE21

Over the course of September, they continued flying missions, one of which involved 5 buffs in the air at the same time. 

Come September 25th, the rumour was that 2 jets would depart on a European sortie before returning to Minot. I seem to remember one jet having some problems, which caused them to scrap that attempt to return home. 

September 26th, however, was the departure day. Between around 09:45 and 13:45, 5 of the 6 jets departed. I missed the first departure, but got lucky with the next one due to the crews needing to swap into a jet that wasn't broken! Having caught the 2nd, I assumed that that would be it for the day, so went home. And then I read on social media that the next 3 were going imminently. It was a shame but I was happy to have caught at least one. All 3 were visible from my house as they climbed over the Cotswolds heading back to North Dakota.

USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress 60-0056 PENCE61

60-0029 was broken and departed late evening on 28th September. The same day, 3 C-17s and an Omni 777 arrived to take equipment and personnel home. A further 2 C-17s arrived, one on September 29th and the other on October 2nd.

With credit to and help from both The Official Fighter Control Website and the RAF Fairford Movements Blog, here is the full list of aircraft involved:

USAF B-52H 60-0005 'Warbirds' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF B-52H 60-0007 'Guardians of the Upper Realm' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF B-52H 60-0029 'Warriors Beyond The Horizon' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF B-52H 60-0044 'Excalibur' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF B-52H 60-0056 'Black Widow' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF B-52H 61-0034 'Checkmate' - 23rd Bomb Squadron 'Bomber Barons' - 5th Bomb Wing

USAF C-17A 03-3116 RCH979 - 183rd AS

USAF C-17A 93-0603 RCH257 - 445th AW

USAF C-17A 01-0197 RCH445 - 145th AW

USAF C-17A 05-5143 RCH713 - 445th AW

USAF C-17A 00-0177 RCH657 - 105th AW

USAF C-17A 97-0040 RCH817 - 167th AS

Atlas Air 747 N415MC GTI8416

Omni Air International 777 N819AX CMB515