Military Exercise – Bomber Force Deployment 2019

Royal Air Force Fairford has seen many United States Air Force (USAF) Bomber deployments over the years but none quite like this in a long time. In the pitch dark of Tuesday August 27th 2019 call-signs “Death 11” and “Death 12”, followed a few hours later by “Death 13”, descended into RAF Fairford, deploying from their Missouri base in the United States of America.

Arriving into RAF Fairford on Tuesday the 27th of August were
CallsignSerialAircraft Name
Death 1182-1068Spirit of New York
Death 1289-0129Spirit Of Georgia
Death 1382-1071Spirit of Mississippi
Fairford is officially designated the forward operating location for bombers for the U.S.Air Forces in Europe & Air Forces Africa. With many recent deployments of Boeing B-52H Stratofortresses and Rockwell B-1B Lancers the Cotswolds is quite used to the assets of Global Strike Command filling the sky, however it’s the more secretive aircraft of the trio that is present in the UK at the moment. The Northrop Grumman B-2A Spirit, known as the Stealth Bomber, which first flew in July 1989 is capable of carrying 40,000 lb (18,000 kg) of ordnance, and has an officially published range of “intercontinental”. First seen at the Gloucestershire base in 1999 the U.S. Air Force invested in Fairford as a B-2 Forward Operating Location in 2004 with two climate controlled permanent hangars located on the north-east side of the airfield. The 50,000-square-foot hangars allow specialised low-observable surface maintenance to be carried out without the need to fly the aircraft back to the United States. As well as this an air portable B-2 Shelter System was erected in the early 2000’s.

 

 

 

 

 

The deployment is designed to practice the interoperability of the B-2A Spirits and their crews, as shown early on into the deployment with exercises conducted with 617 (The Dambusters) Squadron from RAF Marham and their F-35B Lightning II’s. As well as the interoperability with partner nations and NATO allies the deployment has demonstrated the readiness of the USAF’s Global Strike Force should the need arise to forward deploy. Whilst no official length of stay has been announced, the U.S. Air Force has confirmed that sorties will be flown up to eight times a week during the length of the deployment. Spirits have already conducting hot refuelling practices at both Keflavik Air Base, Iceland and Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal

“Our Royal Air Force friends are integral to the 509th Bomb Wing mission. The beauty of our partnerships is that we get to understand how they see the world. Working alongside international fifth generation aircraft provides unique training opportunities for us, bolsters our integration capabilities, and showcases the commitment we have to our NATO alliance.” Lt. Col. Rob Schoeneberg, Bomber Task Force commander, 393rd Expeditionary Squadron

South West Aviation Photographers would like to thank all at the 501st Combat Support Wing, USAF for making this article possible.

Report by Matt Sudol and Gary Morris additional images as credited