A trio of B-52H Stratofortresses and some 200 support personnel from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana are headed to Spain. From there, the iconic bombers will take part in Norway’s large-scale international military exercise dubbed “Cold Response.”
The nuclear-capable bombers’ presence forward deployed to Europe will also serve as yet another message to Russia that the U.S. intends to stand by its NATO allies. Although the ever more capable B-52s do participate in some international exercises in the region, they usually do not forward deploy to do so, instead they fly “out and back” global power missions from the U.S. or at the most they make short crew change, refueling and rearming stops at RAF Fairford in the UK before heading back to the United States.
One of these exercises took place just last May when B-52s participated in mock mining operations off the Swedish coastline as a component of a larger international marine landing war game. B-2 Spirits undertook similar operations days later, coming and going from RAF Fairford over a Brief period of time.
The U.S. and other nations’ participation in Norway’s Cold Response exercise not only fosters better corporation among allies and improves readiness for potential joint combat operations, but it also shows Russia that NATO and other allies can fight to win in the frigid north. With Russia’s pivot towards the arctic and their seemingly constant training in similar conditions as what would be found at such high latitudes, NATO is catching up, countering this capability with their own.
Now it looks like the Pentagon is planning on being much more active in the region, with a massive budgetary boost to do just that coming in the 2017.
The Baltic Sea, which southern Norway sits at the entrance of, is also becoming an increasingly tense region. Russia’s reanimated military, including its aircraft, submarines and now even their air defense systems potentially pose a threat to neighboring counties and both sides—NATO and allies versus Russia—have greatly increased activity in the area, some of which could be classified as provocative. These actions match increasingly combative rhetoric.
With all this in mind, beyond training purposes the B-52’s inclusion in Cold Response is a symbol of the U.S. doubling down on its strategy to counter-balance Russia’s new and more aggressive military posture in the region.
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.
Photos via USAF