A French Air Force Mirage 2000 performs a friendly intercept of a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress from the the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana over Northern France
On March 7, the French Air Force, along with airmen from the US and 10 other NATO countries kicked off Serpentex 2016, the annual exercise to improve interoperability between militaries.
Debuting at Serpentex is the iconic B-52 bomber.
The exercise focuses on training Joint Terminal Attack Controlers (JTAC) from different nations to work together to provide close air support, dynamic targeting, strike coordination and reconnaissance and live ordnance operations.
The B-52, which can fly slowly over targets and carry an wide range of munitions, is well suited to the mission of close air support. It's inclusion adds an interesting twist to the annual exercise.
“Most of them haven’t worked with bombers for these types of missions before. We have a longer duration and a lot wider turn radius than some of the fighters, so they’re going to have to find a new pacing for calling us in for close air support. But I promise that bomber CAS is worth the wait” Maj. Sarah Fortin, the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations, said in a USAF release.
B-52's were also deployed to Cold Response 16, another NATO exercise in Norway. NATO hopes to boost the credibility of their forces in the face of an increasingly aggressive Russia.
"There are times like when we are deployed when we work with JTACs from other countries and sometimes we do things a little differently," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Rarang.
"This exercise is giving us the opportunity to build partnership capacity and know how to better work with our allies when we are in those situations."
"The ability to train bomber aircrews in different geographic combatant commands is essential to maintaining a strong, credible bomber force that enhances the security and stability of our allies and partners," said Lt. Col. Dennis Cummings, 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander.
"Our ability to smoothly and effectively conduct these multinational missions is heavily indebted to the hospitality of Spain and fantastic support we are receiving from US Air Forces Europe."