Show of force: The B-1 Lancer (left), B-2 Spirit (centre) and B-52 Stratofortress (pictured right) together at RAF Fairford
He told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: ‘The deployment of strategic bombers strengthens the effectiveness of RAF Fairford as the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s forward operating bomber location’ and the deployment of the bombers provide: ‘important integration and interaction with our joint partners, UK and NATO allies.’
Despite their use solely being for exercise purposes currently, the aircraft are capable of delivering a nuclear strike and have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past.
The decision to deploy the bombers on UK soil comes as tensions are mounting with Russia as it adopts more a aggressive military front.
American power: The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber is the world’s most advanced strategic bomber
Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit
- Cruising Speed: Classified – believed to be high subsonic
- Range: 6,000 miles, 10,000 miles with one aerial refueling
- Payload: Capable of carrying 16 B61 Nuclear free fall bombs or 80 conventional 500lbs bombs
- Crew: Two
One of the most advanced aircraft ever built, the B-2 Spirit America’s premier strategic bomber. It’s ‘flying wing’ design allows it to penetrate enemy radar systems to deliver either nuclear or conventional weapons.
The project was originally conceived during the Carter administration in 1976 as a way to counter the Soviet threat. It was shrouded in secrecy and cost nearly $45billion to develop until it’s first flight in 1989.
With just one air-to-air refueling the B-2 is capable of flying an astonishing 10,000 miles. This means that there is rarely a need to deploy it outside the U.S., except in cases where the American government wants to project a show of force.
The long-range, multi-mission B1-B Lancer has been part of the US Air Force since 1985
Rockwell B1-B Lancer
- Top Speed: 900-plus mph
- Range: Intercontinental
- Payload: Capable of carrying nuclear weapons and up to 75,000lbs of ordnance internally -the equivalent of 24 misiles
- Crew: Four
Nicknamed ‘The Bone’ for its sleek look, the swing-wing B-1B Lancer was originally designed as an incredibly fast strategic bomber that could penetrate the Soviet Union’s airspace.
However, the collapse of the USSR meant that there was a reduced need for the United States’ nuclear bombers, so the B-1 was assigned a conventional role in the mid-1990s. In the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia six B-1Bs flew two per cent of strike missions but dropped 20 per cent of the total ordnance.
It has been nearly continuously deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. It has also recently seen action in Libya and Syria. Upgrades will ensure the plane is in service up until at least 2040.
A flying antique: The B-52 has been a part of the United States Air Force for more than 60 years. (File picture)
Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
- Top speed: 650mph
- Range: 8,800 miles
- Payload: Capable of carrying nuclear weapons or 70,000lbs worth of conventional weapons
- Crew: Five
The B-52 was initially designed as a high-altitude nuclear bomber. But when it was first introduced in 1955, few could have imagined it would still be flying more than six decades later.
It has seen action in Vietnam – where it flew more than 120,000 missions – as well as in Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was also the main strategic nuclear deterrent during much of the early Cold War.
Pilots joke that the plane’s air-frame is older then them or their father’s – which is testament to the original engineers. The B-52 is nicknamed the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fellow) for its appearance and difficulty to fly.
There are plans to keep the B-52 in service beyond 2040, which could mean it could have been flying for a full century.