Bomber Task Force Europe 22-3

18/08/2022

August 18th, 2022 saw 4 USAF Boeing B-52H Stratofortress aircraft descend on RAF Fairford for a nearly 5-week deployment to the Gloucestershire base.

The first indication that a deployment was imminent was when an Atlas Air Boeing 767 had filed a flight plan to Fairford from the USA. Keen spotters (myself included) quickly noticed that the aircraft had flown into Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. Minot is home to both the 23rd Bomb Squadron, nicknamed the 'Bomber Barons', and the 69th Bomb Squadron, known as the 'Knighthawks'. Both squadrons fall under the 5th Bomb Wing. 

The 767 arrived on the evening of Tuesday, August 16th, with personnel from the 23rd Bomb Squadron. A Boeing 747 operated by Kalitta Air arrived earlier in the day with B-52 equipment. The final equipment was flown in on August 23rd by a USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster operated by the 62nd Air Mobility Wing out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

However, the best stuff arrived on August 18th when HYLA11 flight of 4 B-52s made it to RAF Fairford. Luckily, a well-timed week off meant that for the first time in a long time, I could go and see the bombers arrive at the start of a deployment! Unfortunately, I missed the first arrival due to other more important commitments. I was lucky enough to be able to document the other 3 arrivals though! My scanner came to life with HYLA11 calling up, naturally, this got everybody up and ready! Not long later, B-52 60-0005 was visible with a fair ol' trail of smoke as it ran in overhead Fairford. The aircraft broke into the circuit and landed around 14:50 local time. And once again, we waited. Rumours started circulating that only 1 more jet was due in, which, while unfortunate, is still good as 1 is better than none! Around half an hour later, the distinctive sound of a BUFF could be heard in the near distance, and moments later one popped out of the clouds. Not even 30 seconds later and a second appeared. YES, we still get 2 more arrivals! The aircraft got into a loose 2 ship formation and ran overhead, breaking into the circuit one after the other. The first jet to land, WISE GUY! A B-52 celebrity that had been put to rest many years ago, but recalled back into service. The 2nd aircraft performed a missed approach as Wise Guy was still on the active runway. And, finally, at around 15:30 local, all 4 jets were safely on the deck at their temporary home in the Cotswolds. 

Throughout the deployment, I was lucky enough to catch the jets a number of times. 

Saturday, August 27th saw 2 B-52s fly a mission in the Scandinavian region. Having heard that a B-52 was planned for a flypast at an airshow in Sweden, I headed to Fairford in the hope of some action. Personnel had already announced that they would be selling swag at the fence, so I knew it wouldn't be a complete loss if there was no flying. However. I got to the end of the runway early in the morning and the sound of TF-33s running was music to my ears! It didn't take long to hear SPICY61 request clearance to taxi. Clearance was given and the engines roared as the jet left its stand and taxied to the active runway. Wise Guy departed at around 08:30 for the sortie. With the first jet out for the day and plenty of money spent on swag, I took a walk through the naughty fields to take a closer look at these beasts. There was still plenty of activity around them, but I assumed that 1 was it for the day and so started to head home. No more than 15 minutes later a second one was starting up. I made it back to the base in time for the departure of 60-0026 as SPICY62. We decided to stick around for the return of Wise Guy, which thankfully didn't take too long. SPICY61 flew overhead the base, broke into the circuit, and landed at roughly 2 pm. Having decided that that was enough excitement for one day, I headed home, for real this time!

I next caught a sortie on September 2nd when SPICY51 flight of 2 returned to the Cotswolds following a Baltic/Scandinavian sortie. This sortie saw the aircraft overfly the Swedish parliament building whilst flanked by Swedish Air Force SAAB Gripens. The bombers returned just as the sun was setting, making for some very atmospheric photos! They ran in flying a loose 2 ship formation and broke one by one into the circuit to land. 

Finally, on September 3rd, 60-0023 flew a sortie in which it performed at Airpower Zeltweg 22 in Austria. On its return, it also made a planned pass at Bournemouth Air Festival. Having not seen 0023 in the air yet, and having nothing else planned for the weekend, I decided to take a trip to catch it. Expecting an arrival onto runway 09, I headed to Marston Meysey crash gate. I knew that I was in a good position should it opt for 27. And opt for 27 it did! As seemed to be the usual, it performed an initial down runway 27, breaking into the circuit and landing at 16:50. 

That was my last outing for that deployment, and I was very happy to have caught what I did, especially with work as well.

RUMOR11 flight of 4 departed back to Minot on September 21st, rounding off what was a great deployment from a spotters perspective. 

September 22nd saw a Kalitta Air 747 arrive to take the Barons' equipment back home. It departed on the 23rd. Also on the 23rd, an Omni Air International 767 arrived to take the personnel home, departing later that day. 

The 4 jets were:

60-0005 'Warbirds' - 23rd Bomb Squadron - 5th Bomb Wing boss bird

60-0023 'Bomber Barons' - 23rd Bomb Squadron boss bird - 5th Bomb Wing

60-0026 'Dakota Avenger' - 23rd Bomb Squadron - 5th Bomb Wing

60-0034 'Wise Guy' - 23rd Bomb Squadron - 5th Bomb Wing