B-52s participated in exercises throughout Europe in early June, dropping live ordnance in Latvia and training mines in the Baltics. B-52s, deployed to RAF Fairford, England, on June 13 took part in the US Army Europe-led exercise Saber Strike 16 in Latvia, flying close air support training with US and Latvian joint terminal air controllers on June 13. The exercise includes 4,500 service members from 13 NATO countries and is focused on partner nation ground operations, close air support, and air deployment of forces, according to a USAFE release. During the flight, a B-52 crew used a targeting pod to view targets on the ground and direct munitions, according to a 5th Expeditionary Operations Group release. On June 8, two B-52s deployed to Fairford dropped 12 MK-62 Quick Strike inert mines during a training mission to test the bombers’ ability to precisely drop munitions as part of BALTOPS 2016, according to Air Force Global Strike Command.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.