US nuclear bombers have flown over all 30 NATO states leading up to Joe Biden’s first meeting with Vladimir Putin since becoming president.
Four B-52 long-range bombers took part in the European leg of Operation Allied Sky, flying over 28 of the allied states, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuanian, in 12 hours – on Russia’s doorstep.
At the same time, more B-52s in the US flew through US and Canadian airspace to complete the tour of NATO members.
US and NATO Air Force Commander General Jeffrey Harrigian called the mission “a tremendous demonstration of NATO air superiority” and said it proves “there is no challenge we cannot face.”
It is just the last large-scale NATO exercise to take place ahead of a meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin scheduled for June 16 in Geneva.
A US B-52 nuclear bomber is escorted by an RAF Typhoon as it flies over the UK on Monday as part of NATO’s Allied Sky exercise on Monday
During the mission, four B-52s flew over NATO allies in Europe over the course of 12 hours, accompanied by KC-135 Stratotankers who refueled them in mid-air (pictured)
At the same time as the European mission took place, B-52s in America also flew through US and Canadian airspace (pictured) to complete the tour of NATO allies
Massive naval exercises are currently underway near Portugal involving the British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth – accompanied by a submarine plus destroyers and frigates.
They will be followed later in the month by ground exercises taking place around the Black Sea, close to the Russian border.
Operation Allied Sky is now in its second year and first took place in 2020 with six B-52 bombers – four flying over Europe and two over the US.
An additional four bombers are thought to have participated in this year’s European exercise after being transferred from America to Moron Air Base, in Spain, a few weeks ago. Stars and Stripes reported.
The U.S. Air Force has not specified how many aircraft participated in the U.S. portion of the mission this year.
During the European mission, the bombers were escorted by 100 fighters from 22 different NATO countries.
The operation also involved KC-135 Stratotankers, stationed at RAF Mildenhall in England, which refueled the Flying Fortresses while in the air.
A B-52 bomber is joined by Belgian fighter jets as it flies through the skies over Europe on May 31 as part of Operation Allied Sky
A B-52 bomber is joined by German fighter jets as it flies through the skies over Germany as part of Operation Allied Sky
Captain Kevan Thomas, a B-52 pilot, prepares to take off for the US-Canadian portion of the Allied Sky mission from a base in Louisiana
“Bomber missions demonstrate the credibility of our armed forces to tackle a global security environment that is more diverse and uncertain than at any time in our history,” added General Harrigian.
It comes amid rapidly deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, which deteriorated further last week after the hijacking of a Ryanair flight over Belarus.
While Russia is not directly involved in the plot, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said it is “hard to believe” that Moscow was not involved and that Putin was the only world leader defending Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
It comes after Russia suddenly began rallying troops on its border with Ukraine earlier this year, raising fears of an invasion.
Biden and Putin agreed to meet amid that deadlock, after the new US president previously said he was “too busy” to schedule a meeting.
Biden had also likened Putin to a “murderer” in an earlier interview, prompting an angry rebuke from the strongman who sarcastically wished his counterpart “good health.”
The US has also sanctioned Russia for what Biden said included electoral meddling and state-sponsored hacking.
The pair will try to bury the hatchet in Geneva, where Biden has promised to restore the “predictability and stability” of US relations with Moscow.
A number of sticking points are on the agenda, including Ukraine, Belarus, cyber-attacks and human rights issues, such as the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has complained of mistreatment behind bars.
A Slovakian Air Force MiG-29 is seen from a B-52 as it escorts the bomber through European airspace as part of a joint mission
Three German Air Force typhoons fly next to a B-52H Stratofortress during Operation Allied Sky which took place on May 31
A B-52 bomber is shown taking off from a US Air Force base during Operation Allied Sky Force
NATO joins Russia: British £3 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth leads war games with US and 9 other countries in the Atlantic
HMS Queen Elizabeth has led 19 NATO warships in war games off the coast of Portugal as they practice deploying to the Black Sea in a display of naval prowess just days before Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Joe Biden.
The Royal Navy’s £3bn pride was joined Friday by ships from the US and eight other allied nations for Operation Steadfast Defender – which began off the coast of Portugal last week and will conclude with ground exercises in the Black Sea region later this year. month amid mounting tensions with Russia.
The armada, which included submarines, destroyers and frigates, was supported by immense air support from the RAF’s brand new F-35B Lightning stealth fighters, Portuguese F-16 Fighting Falcons and Spanish F-18 Hornets, as well as the hulking US anti-submarine Poseidon and Orion fighter planes.
HMS Queen Elizabeth with an armada of 19 NATO warships off the coast of Portugal last Friday during the Steadfast Defender operation
The £3bn pride of the Royal Navy ‘Big Lizzie’ who led the line on Friday as the warships practiced in the Atlantic off the coast of Portgual
NATO chiefs insist that the military exercises, involving 9,000 troops, are not aimed specifically at Russia, but are targeting the Black Sea region, where Moscow deployed thousands of troops in mid-April ahead of military exercises.
The display evoked memories of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and prompted US President Joe Biden to plan a summit with Putin to take place in Geneva later this month.
After four years of unorthodox foreign policy under Donald Trump, Biden has said, “It’s time to remind everyone who we are.”
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab prepares to issue his own rebuke over Putin’s “aggressive behavior” at a NATO summit later in the day.
“From Russia’s aggressive behavior towards Ukraine to Lukashenko’s attack on civil aviation, democratic values are under attack,” Raab told The Telegraph ahead of the meeting.
As one of the largest contributors to NATO, British support for the transatlantic alliance is unwavering. We will work with Allies and partners to defend our allies and our values.”
The NATO operation coincides with HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage, which will see her visit 40 countries over the next six months as Britain demonstrates its position as a global superpower after Brexit.
The fleet included submarines, destroyers and frigates from Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the US
A Portuguese submarine cuts through the water in front of HMS Queen Elizabeth on Friday during exercises off the coast of Portugal