On December 13th, the US Air Force saw two of their B-2 Spirit bombers undertake a Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission, a showcase of their rapid response abilities, commitment to NATO and the UK, and an ongoing effort to deter conflict.
The B-2 Spirit Bombers and the Mission
The B-2 Spirits embarked on their mission from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and journeyed towards the North Sea. They were accompanied by F-35B aircraft from the Royal Air Force, marking another instance where such a collaboration has occurred, with the previous one happening in 2019. The integration of fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-35B has been perceived as an enhancement to the capabilities of the task force.
Refuelling and Landing
Over the course of the operation, a KC-135 aircraft from Mildenhall, UK, was tasked with refuelling the bombers. The refuelling is not unusual as most of these task force missions presume the bombers land at Fairford base in the UK, post-mission.
However, in this case, a deviation from the standard procedure was observed. While it was initially reported that both bombers would return to Whiteman, only one touched down at Fairford. The alternate landing pattern can be attributed to the availability of a single KC-135 for refuelling.
The Exact Purpose of the Mission
Though the overall objectives of the bomber task force missions are known, specifics about this mission are not yet confirmed. It remains unclear whether the mission was to simulate a nuclear raid.
Previously, when B-2 Spirits and F-35Bs from the Royal Air Force worked together in 2019, the bombers were deployed in the UK for several days. It is yet to be seen whether a similar pattern will follow this time around.