B-1s integrate with Ukrainian and Turkish aircraft for first time in missions over Black Sea
30 May 2020

Two B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, conducted a long-range, long duration strategic Bomber Task Force mission throughout Europe and the Black Sea region, May 29, 2020. This marked the first time that a Bomber Task Force mission integrated with Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums and Turkish KC-135s.

This was stated in a statement issued by the Command of US Air Force Europe, on Friday 29 May.

"Bomber Task Force missions to Europe demonstrate commitment to our allies and partners all while providing a clear deterrence message to any adversary," said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. "The integration of our strategic bomber presence across Europe proves that the U.S., alongside any ally or partner, stands ready to deter, and if needed, can employ these capabilities together."

The flight also included integration and interoperability training with Polish F-16s and MiG-29s and Romanian F-16s and MiG-21s, which provided escort and combat patrol overwatch in the Black Sea region.

A KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, Turkish and U.S. KC-135s based out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and other NATO aerial refueling aircraft enabled the B-1 to complete the round trip from Ellsworth Air Force Base without delay, while also providing aerial refueling support to our partner-nation aircraft.

Additionally, the B-1s integrated with Greek F-16 air policing for an overflight of Skopje, North Macedonia.

"The Bomber Task Force missions demonstrate to our NATO Allies, including our newest member - North Macedonia - that these strategic missions enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge around the globe," said Gen. Tod D. Wolters, U.S. European Command commander. "The integration and interoperability with our NATO Allies during these missions, be it aerial tanker support or fighter escorts, are indelible actions that show the Alliance is as strong as I've ever witnessed."

Bomber missions familiarize aircrew with air bases, airspace, and operations in different geographic combatant commands. These missions build proficiency and confidence, and they demonstrate the credibility of our forces to address a global security environment that is more diverse and uncertain than at any other time in our history.

In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russian Air Force  Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers "over the neutral waters of the Black Sea". "Su-27P and Su-30SM fighters from the air defense alert quick reaction forces of the Southern Military District were scrambled to intercept the targets. The flights of the Russian combat planes proceeded in strict compliance with the international rules of using the airspace," the ministry said.

After accomplishing their mission, the Russian fighter jets safely returned to their airbases, it added.

source: with the press service of the US Airt Force Command Europe and TASS (Moscow).

photo: Ukrainian fighter planes escort US B-1 bomber aircraft on a training mission  over the Black Sea on 29 May 2020 (picture courtesy of the Ukrainian Air Force)