TALLINN – B-1 Lancer strategic bombers of the United States on Tuesday rehearsed cooperation with forward observers of the Estonian defense forces and NATO allies at the Estonian defense forces' central training grounds as part of the Spring Storm (Kevadtorm) military exercise.
"For NATO, and specifically for our region, training exercises of US strategic bombers in our airspace are an important sign of how serious the Americans are about their role in protecting the Baltic countries," Estonia's Defense Minister Juri Luik said.
"The United States is one of our most important allies, and it is important that our allies understand that security cannot be put on a pause for the duration of the pandemic and are looking for possibilities to demonstrate strong deterrence under the current conditions. I consider it particularly important that strategic bombers are rehearsing their tasks participating in our training exercise," the minister said.
Luik described Spring Storm as a good example of how it is possible to conduct military exercises and maintain preparedness during the pandemic.
Two B-1 Lancer strategic bombers flew to Estonia from Ellsworth Air Base in South Dakota. They also performed airborne refueling during the flight that lasted almost 24 hours.
At the central training grounds of the Estonian defense forces the bombers supported the training of forward observers of Estonia, the United Kingdom and Denmark by dropping mock bombs.
"Today's training exercise demonstrated that for the air force no target is too far away. Our allies, even if they are on the other side of the globe, can be here within a limited number of hours if necessary," said the commander of the Estonian Air Force, Col. Rauno Sirk.
The aerial bombing was integrated with live-fire training at the Spring Storm exercise, which offered an opportunity for the coordination of ground-based and airborne fire in collaboration with allies. The main purpose of the training exercise was to rehearse cooperation between air force units and units of the ground forces, where an important place in the integration of the two branches is played by forward observers who guide attacks by combat aircraft on the enemy from the front line.
Such training exercises are conducted by the United States on a regular basis to assess their preparedness and to also fulfill their security obligations if necessary. The exercise also serves to increase the level of training of NATO allies, which is necessary for responding to potential crises all over the world.
B-1 Lancer is a US supersonic, variable wing bomber aircraft that has been designed to penetrate through enemy's radar controlled air defense systems flying at a low altitude. The bomber can fly at 0.9 times the speed of sound, or 1,080 kilometers per hour, at an altitude of just 60 meters. The first version of the aircraft, B-1A, made its maiden flight in 1974, and the second version, B-1B, in 1984, being the successor to the strategic bomber B-52 Stratofortress.
B-1B is capable of carrying a heavier payload than any other US bomber, and it has a range of 7,400 kilometers armed.
B-1B has seen a lot of action, as in the early months of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq 40 percent of the bombs dropped were dropped from B-1Bs. At the present time the B-1B carries a multipurpose weapons system equipped with modern communication and targeting systems which enables it to carry out a variety of air operations.