Minot AFB B-52s, personnel take part in Bomber Task Force Europe
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE – From England to the Baltic Region to Africa and other geographic locations, Minot Air Force Base B-52 bombers and air crews recently took part in Bomber Task Force Europe, a global bomber mission to familiarize the air crews with air bases, air power and operations in various geographic regions.
The bombers and personnel were deployed to an overseas base in support of joint and combined training with U.S. allies and partners. The mission represented the United States’ commitment to allies and to enhance regional security, according to Air Force information.
“We worked with a lot of our traditional allies out there,” said Lt. Col. Michael Middents, task force commander and 23rd Bomb Squadron commander from Minot Air Force Base.
They also worked with NATO partner countries.
According to bomb squadron information, the B-52s flew 57 missions with 100 partner aircraft, along with allies and partners from 30 different countries, conducting missions over the North, Barents, Black, Norwegian and Mediterranean Seas and in the Baltic region.
Middents spoke about the recent deployment to members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee on Nov. 5. Due to the pandemic, the meeting was held via Zoom.
Middents said six B-52s were launched from Minot Air Force Base for the deployment.
That occurred in August when the planes and personnel left for Europe, arriving at Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford in England. He said that base has a very rich history.
RAF Fairford information states the base was constructed in 1944 as an airfield for British and American troop carriers and gliders for the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.
“This deployment is a strong sign of the United States’ enduring commitment to NATO and to European security,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu, welcoming the arrival, according to NATO information. “US aircraft will be flying alongside Allied air forces in the coming days, honing our ability to work together in response to any challenge. NATO is a defensive alliance, and for more than seventy years our nations have stood together to deter aggression, prevent conflict, and preserve peace.”
Middents noted a few of the missions, including:
“On 7 September we had a great mission down to basically the African continent. Two B-52s went down to Morocco and integrated with Moroccan F-16s over the Sahara Desert.”
During that timeframe the B-52 also integrated with Tunisian F-5s which Middent said “is a very rare thing to see.”
He said they also trained with the Navy’s USS Roosevelt for joint U.S. training in the Mediterranean Sea.
“About that time we did get hit with some COVID positives and we worked through that. That was quite a challenge,” Middent said.
“We worked quite a few hours to make sure we were taking care of the team and getting the mission done. It was just a real big effort to make sure we keep the mission going and making sure everyone was healthy enough and not spreading it,” he said.
The B-52s and air crews also integrated with Ukrainian and Romanian aircraft.
He said the U.S. going in with B-52s into Ukraine “is really a historic kind of situation.”
“Those guys came up, got on the radio, they welcomed us to Ukraine. Really a great integration with those guys,” he said.
Middents is familiar with the Baltic region, in particular with Estonia, according to bomb squadron information. He completed his officer Intermediate Developmental Education from 2016-2017 at the Baltic Defence College taught at the Estonian National Defence College in Tartu, Estonia. The college is run by the three Baltic nations – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Prior, he visited Estonia as an Air Force bomber liaison officer.
Bomber Task Force Europe wrapped up with a number of missions into Poland, Middents said. They took part in Astral Knight, a major exercise.
“There’s a lot of challenges working this deployment but I think it left us a stronger team as we come back. We learned a lot,” Middents said.
“What I know we walked away with is we know that we can perform our mission down to the youngest airman. Everyone out there was able to see first hand the impact they were having and, furthermore, the rest of the world did as well,” he said.
Col. Michael Walters, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, said the Bomber Task Force was “a huge success.”
Walters also spoke via Zoom to the Chamber’s Military Affairs Committee members.
“I know a lot of eyes were on that operation. They really set the tone for future dynamic force deployments, not just bomber task force operations,” he said.