Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers has conducted a Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission to the Sea of Okhotsk near Russia on June 18-19.
According to Aircraft Spots, the bombers, with call sign ABRAM96 and ABRAM97, took off from the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for the mission.
USAF B-52Hs ABRAM96 & 97 departed Eielson AFB, Alaska heading southwest, now flying due-regard for 2 hours, likely into the Sea of Okhotsk. pic.twitter.com/d7ZkBl1oeU
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) June 18, 2020
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean which is enclosed between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, Japan’s island of Hokkaido to the south, the Russian island of Sakhalin along the west, and a stretch of eastern Siberian coast of Russia along the west and north.
The bombers entered the Sea of Okhotsk through a gap in the Kuril Islands chain. While near the islands chain, the bombers integrated with a pair of U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft.
— PACAF (@PACAF) June 19, 2020
This is the first Sea of Okhotsk mission conducted by a USAF B-52H bomber. Last month, a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bomber conducted a mission to the area.
On June 14, the U.S. Air Force deployed three B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers to the Eielson AFB to conduct bomber task force operations in the Indo-Pacific region. The last time B-52s deployed to Eielson AFB was July through August of 2017 in support of Red Flag-Alaska 17-3.
According to the Air Force, the bombers from the USAF’s 96th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing based at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, were deployed to support Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) training efforts with allies, partners and joint forces, and strategic deterrence missions “to reinforce the rules-based international order in the region”.
As part of the BTF Mission, one of the bomber integrated with Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter jets and Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornet jets to conduct intercept training over the Beaufort Sea in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
This mission was followed by a Sea of Japan mission conducted by a pair of B-52H bombers. During the mission, the B-52s conducted long-range escort and intercept training with four Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF, Koku-Jieitai) F-2 and 12 F-15 fighter jets.
In addition, the bombers conducted integration training with Growlers from the Navy’s Electronic Attack Squadron 209 (VAQ-209) “Star Warriors” deployed to Misawa AB, Japan.
In line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability and operational unpredictability, the U.S. Air Force transitioned its force employment model to enable strategic bombers to operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broader array of overseas and CONUS locations with greater operational resilience.
These BTF missions “enable a mix of different types of strategic bombers an opportunity to train alongside Allies and Partners in a joint environment and to build interoperability to bolster their ability to support a free and open Indo-Pacific”.
The B-52 Stratofortress has been the backbone of the U.S. strategic bomber force more than 60 years, capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S inventory. The Air Force currently expects to operate B-52s through 2050.