Just in time, for Valentine’s Day. How Sweet.
A gift for President Vladimir Putin.
When he’s not poisoning people or sending his henchmen to attack Russian civilians on the streets of Moscow, he’s lying about cyber attacks or enjoying champagne in his new multi-billion-dollar Black Sea “James Bond villain” lair.
Well, now he’s got one more worry — United States Air Force B-1 bombers, shoved right down his throat.
A detachment of B-1Bs, accompanied by more than 200 personnel, is set to arrive at the Norway’s Ørland Main Air Station as the US military intensifies its focus on the strategically important Arctic region, military analyst Thomas Newdick of The War Zone reported.
These particular Valentine’s gifts don’t come with a shiny bow, however — we’re talking about AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, and the AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, or LRASM — a veritable nightmare for Russia’s Northern Fleet.
US European Command (EUCOM) announced that an advance team was about to head to Ørland ahead of B-1Bs touching down — known lovingly as “The Bone” — but did not say specifically when the bombers would arrive.
The aircraft and airmen assigned to this Bomber Task Force (BTF) will all come from the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, War Zone reported.
“Operational readiness and our ability to support allies and partners and respond with speed are critical to combined success,” Air Force General Jeff Harrigian, commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said in a statement.
“We value the enduring partnership we have with Norway and look forward to future opportunities to bolster our collective defense.”
According to EUCOM, the deployment is “in keeping with force health protection measures aligned with the Department of Defense, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Norwegian policy.”
This means all Air Force personnel will be medically screened in Texas prior to arriving in Norway and will undergo a 10-day quarantine, War Zone reported.
While Ørland is located just over 300 miles from the Arctic Circle, the deployment signals the Air Force’s increasing commitment to working alongside NATO allies and other partners on Russia’s northwest borders, as well as its ability to work in the High North.
The Norwegian base is otherwise home to the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s expanding F-35A stealth fighter fleet and also periodically hosts NATO E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft from Geilenkirchen Air Base in Germany, War Zone reported.
Last July, the Air Force announced a new Arctic Strategy that calls for an increased presence in the region to counter the threat posed by Russia.
The wider region has been identified as a potential flashpoint, as climate change sees a scramble to secure the potential wealth offered by natural resources, as well as new maritime trade routes that are no longer constrained by year-round sea ice, War Zone reported.
“The Arctic is among the most strategically significant regions of the world today — the keystone from which the US Air and Space Forces exercise vigilance,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “This Arctic Strategy recognizes the immense geostrategic consequence of the region and its critical role for protecting the homeland and projecting global power.”
Until now, bomber missions over the Arctic have been staged out of RAF Fairford.
The upcoming deployment to Ørland will bring these aircraft much closer to the operating area and send a powerful signal to Moscow.
The B-1B fleet has suffered serious age-related readiness problems in recent years, Popular Mechanics reported.
It was originally designed to fly for 8,000 to 10,000 hours, but the average number of hours on the bomber fleet is 12,000 hours.
In 2019, fewer than 10 of the 62 bombers were ready for combat. That same year, the Air Force also restricted the plane to flying at higher altitudes, in order to relieve the airframes of the stress of low-altitude flight, Popular Mechanics reported.
The Air Force originally designed and deployed the B-1B as a low-altitude penetrating bomber, capable of evading Soviet air defenses and attacking targets with nuclear weapons.
Since the B-1 fleet lost the nuclear mission in the 1990s, it’s been used as a strike and close air support platform over Iraq and Afghanistan, Popular Mechanics reported.
The B-21 Raider, scheduled to fly this December, will replace both the B-1B and B-2 bombers.