The US has deployed several nuclear-capable strategic bombers to Britain for the first time as tensions with Russia continue to grow.
Two B-2 stealth bombers, which cost more than half a billion each three B-52H Stratofortress aircraft and three B-1B Lancers are currently stationed at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
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.
Russian Tupolev Tu-95 ‘Bear’ strategic bombers have repeatedly been intercepted in recent months by NATO aircraft, including RAF Typhoons.
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.