In another unprecedented show of force aimed at Russia, U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew from the United Kingdom to Ukraine airspace earlier today. After arriving there, they orbited for an extended period right at the edge of the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula and near areas under the control of Kremlin-supported separatists. These sorties are the latest in a flurry of geopolitical posturing between Washington and Moscow and come a week after a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet performed a potentially dangerous maneuver in front of another B-52H flying over the Black Sea.
H/T: The Drive
After they had entered Ukrainian airspace, the B-52Hs flew to the southeastern portion of the country and entered a racetrack-like orbit along the coast of the Sea of Azov. The orbit's southwesternmost point was over the Ukrainian port city of Henichesk, which is around 20 miles, at its closest, from the Crimean Peninsula. The northeasternmost tip of the route was just south of the city of Melitopol, around 115 miles or so from areas under the control of separatists in Eastern Ukraine that Russian forces are actively supporting.
U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has confirmed that three B-52 bombers took part in the mission over Ukraine today, as did Ukrainian fighter jets, in a press release. The full release is as follows:
Three U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber aircraft from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted vital integration training with Ukrainian fighters Friday inside Ukraine’s airspace.
Friday’s strategic bomber mission is part of the long-planned deployment of six B-52s to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, England. The mission provided partners valuable midair training. In addition, the mission demonstrated how forward-located aircraft and crews, such as those in the B-52 units, enable collective defense capabilities and provide the U.S., NATO Allies and partners strategic and operational breadth to deter Russia and assure Allies and partners.
More than 200 related missions have been conducted since the Bomber Task Force launched operations in the European theater two years ago. These ongoing bomber missions showcase the U.S. Air Force’s ability to continually execute flying missions, sustain readiness and support Allies and partners across Europe, regardless of external challenges to include the current global COVID-19 crisis response.
First time in history that an USAF strategic bomber enters Ukrainian airspace. pic.twitter.com/22wvBg5rQt— Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad) September 4, 2020
This is the most intensive SIGINT bait I've seen in a while.— Petri Mäkelä (@pmakela1) September 4, 2020
At least two USAF RC-135V/W Rivet Joint SIGINT planes recording the Russian emissions (radar, comms etc.) from #Crimea and #Russia as a flight of B-52H bombers circle along the Azov coast in Ukrainian airspace. https://t.co/UGv8EukU3C
USAF B52´s now circling near the Sea of Azov pic.twitter.com/GHB1lwfF2Q— Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad) September 4, 2020
Ukrainian Su-27s overflying Odessa, possibly escorting the US B-52s earlier. pic.twitter.com/gmHPIrgoqy— Status-6 (@Archer83Able) September 4, 2020
Likely all 3 of these assets are deployed over the Black Sea / Ukraine now https://t.co/fg6U5H9WFD— Intel Air & Sea (@air_intel) September 4, 2020
Third.— Sovinskiy (@_Sovinskiy) September 4, 2020
B-52 (with B-1B and KC-10A Extender) already were in Poltava in 1994 and in B-1b were over Ukraine in May, 2020 pic.twitter.com/IY5MNG1Fmu