Two United States Rockwell B-1B Lancer strategic bombers took part in the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) Spring Storm large scale exercise Tuesday, joining EDF and allied personnel in the skies over the central polygon training area.
"For NATO and our region in particular, the exercises of U.S. strategic bombers in our airspace are an important sign of how seriously Americans are taking their role in defending the Baltic states," said defense minister Jüri Lui (Isamaa).
"The U.S. is one of our most important allies, and it is vital that our allies understand that security cannot be interrupted during a pandemic, and to look for ways to demonstrate strong deterrence in the current circumstances," Luik went on, according to an EDF press release.
"It especially important that strategic bombers practice their role by participating in our Spring Storm exercise," Luik went on, adding that Spring Storm is a good example of how military exercises can be conducted and military readiness maintained, during a pandemic crisis.
"Today's cooperation exercise showed that no destination is too far away for the air force. Our allies, even when they are on the other side of the globe, can be present within hours, if necessary," said Colonel Rauno Sirk, Commander of the Estonian Air Force (Õhuvägi).
The aerial bombers' exercise was integrated with Spring Storm live firing exercises, which provided an opportunity to coordinate ground and air fire in cooperation with NATO allies.
The exercise's main goal was to practice the coordination of air and ground units, where joint terminal attack controllers play an important role in the integration of the two, directing combat aircraft strikes from the front line, the EDF said.
24-hour flight from the U.S.
The two B-1B Lancers arrived over Estonia after a nearly 24-hour flight from the U.S. Air Force Base in Ellsworth, South Dakota, a journey which involved aerial refueling.
Personnel from the U.K. and Denmark were also involved in the exercise.
The U.S. regularly conducts such exercises to assess its capabilities and, if necessary, to fulfill its security responsibilities. The exercises also boost NATO allies' training in responding to potential crises around the world.
The Rockwell B-1B Lancer is a supersonic, sweep-wing, strategic heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force, one of three strategic bombers used by that force (together with the B-52 Stratofortress and the B-2 Spirit).
It entered service in the mid-1980s and first saw action in the Operation Desert Fox air strikes on Iraq in 1998.
Forty percent of aerial bombardment dropped the early months of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s, used the B-1B.
Editor: Andrew Whyte