In First, B-1 Bombers Join Largest Nordic Air Exercise

A pair of B-1 bombers flew over the North Sea on June 5, joining in on an expansive aerial exercise taking place in the Nordic region. 

As part of Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, the B-1s from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, flew above the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier and integrated with F-35s from the U.S. Air Force and Royal Norwegian Air Force, as well as U.S. Navy aircraft. 

“The U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy routinely conduct operations in the High North alongside the Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian Air and Naval Forces, and Arctic Challenge provided enhanced opportunities for NATO allies and partners to integrate with strategic U.S. bombers and the Ford-class aircraft carrier in a new environment,” a U.S. Air Forces in Europe press release stated.

The B-1s are in Europe as part of a Bomber Task Force deployment, based out of RAF Fairford, U.K. Since arriving two weeks ago, Airmen and aircraft have been busy. On May 23, one B-1 was intercepted by a Russian fighter over the Baltic Sea region. On May 30, a bomber flew over Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a show of support amid continued unrest in the area. And on June 1, a B-1 integrated with allied forces during a small force exercise across France and Belgium. 

Their participation in Arctic Exercise Challenge, however, marks their biggest training opportunity yet—and the first time U.S. bombers have flown in the biennial exercise since it began in 2013. 

In addition to the B-1s, the U.S. Air Force is flying F-35s and F-15s from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, U.K., in the exercise, as well as KC-135s from the 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, U.K., and the Maine Air National Guard. 

Sweden is leading the exercise, with aircraft also stationed in Norway and Finland. The U.S., U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Czech Republic all sent personnel and aircraft. 

“By training and conducting realistic exercises in the High North, like Arctic Challenge Exercise 2023, U.S. forces and those of Allied and Partner nations hone skills, fine-tune interoperability, nurture key relationships, and acclimate to the inherent challenges posed by fighting in the Arctic’s extreme conditions,” a USAFE press release stated.