The B2s and B52s have deterrence capacity that reassures allies, analysts say
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Fairford -- 31/07/14
The US B52 bombers have been deployed to a base in western England. [Paul Ciocoiu/SETimes]
The temporary relocation of five strategic bombers, three B-52s and two B-2s, for joint drills at a base in western England comes to boost allies' solidarity and military preparedness, analysts told SETimes.
With their superior capabilities, the aircraft send out a firm message of unity, but also a warning against aggressive moves against NATO member states amid turbulence in eastern Europe.
The B-52 Stratofortress was introduced more than 60 years ago and has since been the backbone of the US Air Force, participating in countless military operations, such as deterrence missions during the Cold War, Operation Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom. But the bomber has been modernised over the years and is expected to be in service until the 2040s.
"Even if it is an older aircraft we do keep it up to date so we constantly put modern equipment on it, such as new avionics and communication techniques, defence systems and precision guided capabilities, so it looks old only on the outside," Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Link, commander of the 96th expeditionary squadron, told SETimes.
The long-range bomber can carry up to 32,000 kilograms of weapons and has added new offensive capabilities, such as air-launched cruise missiles. The B-52s have also received new data communication equipment which allows them to exchange information with other military platforms.
The other bomber, B-2 Spirit, has been in service since 1997 and features stealth technology meant to penetrate anti-aircraft defence. The bomber has flight autonomy of 11,000 kilometres and can carry out attack missions at up to 15,000 metres. In 2012, the B-2 fleet started a modernisation process focused on replacing outdated avionics and equipment.
Experts say the bombers' presence in Europe offers security to Allies.
"The B-2 is a long-range strike aircraft that can participate in military operations flying from the United States, and this has happened fairly frequently in the past decade," Ian Anthony, director of the European Security Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, told SETimes. "It is not necessary for the aircraft to be located in Europe to participate in an exercise, and the decision to bring the aircraft to the United Kingdom can therefore be interpreted as a political signal of solidarity as much as an element of military preparedness."
Anthony added the deployment of the bombers comes amid efforts of allied countries to boost mutual trust.
"During 2014, NATO Allies have agreed on a series of measures that are intended to underline their joint commitment to collective defence in case any of them is the victim of aggression. One of the agreed measures is to hold more frequent joint exercises in Europe that use scenarios based on an aggression against a NATO member. It is very likely that additional measures will be announced at the NATO summit in the United Kingdom later this year," he said.
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