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Video Above: B1-B Hypersonic Weapons Bay

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

Although larger numbers of operational F-35s are emerging throughout Europe and more countries continue to join the multinational F-35 alliance of nations, there is still a critical need for the kind of unique and extremely important impact of bomber patrols.

Long range bombers such as a B-2, B-52 or B1-B will continue to conduct Bomber Task Force patrols in the skies above Europe for a number of key reasons, senior service leaders explained. 

B-2, B-52 and B1-B Bomber Task Force Patrols

“Bombers give us the ability to provide some strategic ambiguity. There is a pattern of life to fighters. Bombers are recognized by our adversaries and they (our adversaries) recognize that we are training from a standoff perspective. Standoff targeting adds a deterrent value that is hard to quantify. We get feedback as to what the impact is which we don’t get with our fighters,” Harrigian said. Gen Jeffrey L. Harrigian, Commander, U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Air Forces Africa and Allied Air Command and Director, Joint Air Power Competence Centre.

Harrigian explained that many F-35s and 4th-generation aircraft often perform the similar routines over the course of time, something which establishes a regular “pattern of life” for adversaries to notice. 

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This means it can be difficult to be unpredictable and present a credible deterrence posture in a manner unexpected by an enemy. High-altitude bombers, enabled by long-range sensors, targeting technologies and weapons can introduce unexpected threats for an adversary in a way that fortify the deterrence posture.

“Because of their long-range and reach, bombers can show up in a variety of different locations unanticipated or unannounced to create a deterrent,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told The National Interest.

 A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., approaches the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base

 A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 307th Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., approaches the refueling boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 931st Air Refueling Group, McConnell Air Force Base

The concept or goal, Harrigian added, is to “make sure our adversaries take notice.”

These bomber task forces, expected to continue in unpredictable, yet impactful ways, can draw upon some fast-unfolding new concepts of operations and tactics, techniques and procedures.

“As we lay out these CONOPS (concepts of operations), it is good to see the specificity of what we are getting to in a tactical perspective. We want units to come in and get familiar with flying in Europe. If we have not done that, we don’t want to do it in a crisis,” Harrigian explained in the interview.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven -the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President - Center for Military Modernization