A pair of B-1B Lancer flies with Norwegian F-35s during a training mission for Task Force Bombardment in Europe, May 20, 2020. Some 200 air force personnel are deployed to Orland Air Base, Norway, with a B-1 bomber squadron to support bombing missions from the base, marking the first bomber deployment to Norway. (Norwegian Air Force)
The Air Force deploys bombers and airmen for the first time to a base in Norway, underscoring the growing importance of the Arctic region to US defense strategy.
More than 200 Air Force personnel from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas were scheduled to arrive at Orland Air Force Base with a squadron of B-1 Lancer Expeditionary Bomber to support missions in the area, a the European command of the United States announced Tuesday in a statement.
EUCOM did not say when the airmen and B-1s would arrive or how long they would stay at Orland, a base on the country’s west coast where the Royal Norwegian Air Force operates a fleet of F- fighter jets. 35A Lightning II.
The airmen “will be part of the advanced team for missions planned in the coming weeks which will take place for a limited time,” the statement said.
Air Force unveiled new Arctic defense strategy in July focused on strengthening its presence in the region and combating threats from Russia and China.
At Orland, Airmen will conduct operations in the Far North and work with allies and partners across the European theater.
“Operational readiness and our ability to support Allies and partners and to respond quickly are critical to the combined success,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, commander of US air forces in Europe and Africa, in a statement. “We value the enduring partnership we have with Norway and look forward to future opportunities to strengthen our collective defense.”
The Air Force has stepped up its strategic bomber missions in the Arctic, but recent missions have been organized from England, where the bombers typically deploy during training in Europe, or have involved flights round trip between the United States and the Nordic region.
This is the first time that bombers have been deployed in Norway, a USAFE-AFAFRICA spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
At the height of the Cold War, strategic bombers often plied the region. Although bombers such as the B-52 and F-111 were based nearby in Britain, they were not allowed to use Norwegian air bases, even for exercises, as the government in Oslo prohibits Allied nuclear-capable aircraft from using its territory.
The long-range B-1 had nuclear capability until the mid-1990s, when it was reorganized for exclusively conventional missions.
Nicknamed “The Bone”, the Lancer has served the US Air Force since 1985.