Two pairs of B-52H Stratofortress bombers, from Barksdale AFB and from Minot AFB, streaked north last week on a long-range exercise dubbed “Polar Growl.” One set of bombers would end up over the far reaches of the North Sea, while the other would cruise high above the Polar Icecap, both areas where Putin’s Russia is increasing its presence. This doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
The whole affair had three main objectives. First, to test and see how US Strategic Command could handle two separate missions, heading into two separate areas, at the same time. Second, to inter-operate with allied air forces and give crews familiarity with mock foreign intercepts. And third, to give B-52 crews experience navigating the extreme northerly latitudes. STRATCOM boss Admiral Cecil Haney described the value of the exercise:
“These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally-recognized flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination… They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols, and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space.”
Such a statement is somewhat of a slap in the face to the Russians who have become increasingly brazen when it comes to their near constant long-range strategic aircraft drills, even turning off their transponders when flying in dense international airspace.
During Polar Growl, the B-52Hs practiced dissimilar air intercepts and maneuvering with Royal Canadian AF, Royal AF and Royal Netherlands AF fighters. All have been intercepting Russian bomber, surveillance and fighter aircraft with alarming regularity over the past year. Major Nathan Barnhart, a 343rd Bomb Squadron instructor radar navigator describes the utility of such a training sortie:
Full article: The US Just Held Long-Range Bomber Drills Over An Area Russia Wants (Foxtrot Alpha)