A United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber made an overflight of Estonia Friday evening as part of a pan-NATO exercise which saw similar flights over all 30 member states, aimed at highlighting solidarity within the alliance and its member states. The B-52 was accompanied in Estonia airspace with Mirage 2000-5 French air force jets based at Ämari.
While B-52s have in recent months made lower level flights over Estonia, Friday's plane flew at 8,500 meters altitude.
"U.S. security commitments to the NATO Alliance remain ironclad," said Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command, via a statement.
"Today's bomber task force mission is another example of how the Alliance sustains readiness, improves interoperability and demonstrates our ability to deliver on commitments from across the Atlantic."
The flight was part of a much wider pan-NATO Allied Sky event which saw six B-52s fly over all 30 member states in Europe and North America on Friday, four of them flying from RAF Fairford (U.K.) covering Europe, and two from the 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot, ND, covering the U.S. and Canada.
The European bombers carried out airborne refueling tasks as well as rendezvous from other NATO planes from member states – in Estonia's case Mirage 2000-5 of the French air force, based at Ämari.
"By further enhancing our enduring relationships, we send a clear message to potential adversaries about our readiness to meet any global challenge," Gen. Wolters said.
Defense Minister Juri Luik (Isamaa) said the overflight both in Estonian airspace and that of NATO as a whole gave a clear signal of the commitment of the alliance's largest member, the U.S., to the organization and its allies' defense.
President Donald Trump announced earlier in summer that the U.S. would be halving the number of its NATO troops based in Germany, as well as withdrawing marines deployed in Norway, a move met with concern in Estonia at the time, though several thousand U.S. personnel are to be redeployed to neighboring Poland.
Participating in Allied Sky, along with Estonia and the U.S., were Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and the U.K.
The flight was effectively the swansong of the current French air force deployment at Ämari, as the unit is being replaced by incoming Eurofighter Typhoons from the German air force from Monday.
A video of a B-52 Stratofortress flight, including in-cockpit footage, is here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte