B-52s conduct bomber missions during BALTOPS 2017

RAF FAIRFORD, U.K. --

Three B-52H Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., began missions in support of Baltic Operations on June 6, 2017.

The bombers are participating in the 45th edition of BALTOPS exercise which provides an opportunity for bomber crews to integrate with NATO allies and partner nations between June 1 and 16.

BALTOPS is an annual joint, multinational maritime-focused exercise designed to improve training value for participants, enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region.

“On a strategic level, we’re trying to demonstrate to our NATO allies that we can combine forces,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Fleming Thompson, 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron weapons officer. “On a tactical level, we’re breaking down the details to figure out exactly what we need to do and how to do it in order to accomplish the mission.”

The exercise will involve maritime, ground and air forces to strengthen combined response capabilities necessary to ensure regional stability.

Integration was on full display when U.S. Air Force Global Strike Airmen and the U.S. Navy collaborated in production of inert, (non-explosive) Quick Strike MK 62 mines in preparation for BALTOPS. For the Airmen of the 2nd Bomb Wing, this means putting bombs, or mines, on target.

“We’re having an impact, not just for ourselves, but for our allies as well.” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Aldrin Magalong, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew team chief. “We’ve been working closely with the Navy and they’ve been teaching us a lot. Integrating with different branches has been great.”

These missions provide U.S. and coalition military forces the training opportunity for laying and recovering mines. After the mines are deployed they will be recovered within 24 hours by NATO forces—these mines can then be re-used for future exercises.

“These exercises are getting us out there, setting the tempo and raising the bar,” Thompson said.

These bombers will perform sorties in the Baltic Sea region, providing support to NATO and partner forces. The exercise will enable them to enhance their combat readiness so that, collectively, NATO can immediately respond to a range of real-world situations.