In 2021, the US Air Force stationed four B-1 Lancer bombers in Norway for the first time, precisely at the Ørland air base, which is located about 950 km from Russia. This mission, which, by the way, was marked by an incident in which one of the aircraft was damaged, had at least objectives: to strengthen interoperability with the Norwegian Air Forces and, above all, to emphasize the United States’ interest in the Great North, which was then the almost exclusive ” Playing field” of Russian military aviation.
Two years later, and while the security context in Europe has been disrupted by the war in Ukraine, Russia regularly mentions the nuclear threat [comme son ministre des Affaires étrangères, Sergueï Lavrov, l’a encore fait en juillet]The U.S. Air Force sent three B-2 “Spirit” strategic bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing to Iceland. Such an operation is not unprecedented, as the first of its kind was carried out in 2019.
Clearly, the Pentagon has no need to preposition B-2 Spirits in Iceland…assuming those aircraft are capable of conducting an attack from Whiteman Base if necessary [Missouri]. Their presence in Europe is also a question of “strategic signaling.” But not only because it also offers the opportunity to strengthen interoperability with European air forces and test new operating modes within the framework of the ACE concept. [Agile Combat Employment] the US Air Force.
Thus, on August 29, a B-2 Spirit carried out an “unprecedented” operation in Norway, as it was the first time that country welcomed a bomber of this type to its soil. But soon that mission consisted of conducting a “hot refueling.”
Apparently the B-2 Spirit landed in Ørland to “refuel” without shutting down its engines before taking off again and continuing its mission.
This process, reminiscent of the pit stop of a Formula 1 car, allows to speed up flight operations since it no longer has to repeat the engine starting procedure, which is time-consuming and complicated for an aircraft like this B-2
This mode of operation, already tested in Iceland in 2019, “expands our reach by establishing temporary operations centers in strategically selected and even unpredictable locations,” commented General James Hecker, the commander of American air forces in Europe and Africa.
“The long-range penetration and strike capabilities offered by the B-2 are truly unique in the world. But this requires a lot of fuel. By improving our ability to interact with our allies and utilize partner nations’ equipment and infrastructure for resupply, we can significantly reduce what we often refer to as the “tanker bill.” [avions ravitailleurs, nldr]. In some cases, this can mean the difference between mission success or failure,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander.
As a reminder, the US Air Force only has twenty B-2 Spirits left. These planes remained grounded between December 2022 and May last year after one of them was forced to make an emergency landing due to a technical malfunction, the cause of which is still unclear.