Here Are All the Best Photos of the B‑52s Escorted by NATO Fighters During Their Unprecedented Tour of Europe

 In U.S. Air Force, Sea, Russia, EMEA, Air, Forces & Capabilities, NATO

Composite image showing the B-52 escorted by the BAF F-16s, the Polish AF MiG-29s and F-16s and intercepted by the Russian Su-27 over the Black Sea. In the box, the route of NATO 01. (Image credit: TheAviationist/BAF/Polish Air Force/Zvezda/ADSBExchange)

On Aug. 28, 2020, four B‑52H Stratofortress bombers, belong­ing to the 5th Bomb Wing, from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, as part of the latest Bomber Task Force Europe, car­ried out an unprece­dent­ed mis­sion across Europe.

Allied Sky was a single-day mis­sion that saw 6 B‑52s over­fly­ing all 30 NATO nations to demon­strate NATO sol­i­dar­i­ty, enhance readi­ness and pro­vide train­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties aimed at enhanc­ing inter­op­er­abil­i­ty for all par­tic­i­pat­ing air­crews from the U.S. and NATO allies.

Allied Sky was con­duct­ed by two teams: four B‑52 Stratofortresses out of six cur­rent­ly deployed to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, U.K., were tasked to cover European por­tion of the mis­sion (that would see also the inte­gra­tion with with sev­er­al NATO nations’ air force fight­er air­craft and aerial refu­el­ing air­craft in the skies above each host nation); two B‑52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N. D., flew over the NATO nations of Canada and the United States.

During the mis­sion, out of the four B‑52 flying in Europe, only 61 – 0034 used its Mode‑S transpon­der and could be tracked online during its long trip (the others, seri­als 60 – 0005, 60 – 0007 and 60 – 0056, could not be tracked online using the pop­u­lar flight track­ing web­sites ADSBExchange, PlaneRadar, Airnav RadarBox etc.).

Using the radio call­sign “NATO 01” (a first, con­sid­ered that the call­sign NATO xx is usu­al­ly reserved to the Alliance’s E-3A AWACS home-based at Geilenkirchen Air Base), the B‑52H/61 – 0034, under­took an inter­est­ing tour flying from RAF Fairford across Eastern Europe to the Black Sea area and then back via (among the others) Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.

The route roughly flown by NATO01 (there are some parts where the aircraft was not under MLAT coverage). (Image credit: ADSBExchange)

Overall, the B‑52s in Europe were escort­ed by combat air­craft of all types: RAF Typhoons and FAF Mirage 2000 over the Baltic off Lithuania; while flying over Belgium, 60 – 0005 was escort­ed by BAF F‑16s; over Poland, the B‑52 60 – 0056 was escort­ed by F‑16s and MiG-29s; while the BUFF 61 – 0034 was accom­pa­nied by JAS 39 Gripen over the Czech Republic; by F‑16s and MiG-21 Lancers over Romania; MiG-29s over Bulgaria; MiG-21s over Croatia; F‑16s over Greece; Italian Air Force Typhoons and F‑35s inter­cept­ed and escort­ed NATO 01 over Italy.

During the Turkish seg­ment, the B‑52 NATO 01 was also refu­eled by a Turkish Air Force KC-135 tanker:

Noteworthy, the BUFF NATO 01 was also escort­ed by the Russians, as it was inter­cept­ed by Russian Air Force Su-27 Flankers over the Black Sea:

Here are some of the images released by the var­i­ous NATO mem­bers. Unfortunately, not all nations and air forces did take aerial shots, but some made an out­stand­ing job!


Czech Republic:


RAF on BAP (Baltic Air Policing mis­sion):




Over Canada, the two B‑52s launched from Minot AFB as NATO 05 and 06, were escort­ed by RCAF CF-188s.

Although such mis­sions are “long-planned and not in response to any cur­rent polit­i­cal events occur­ring in Europe”, Allied Sky and the sym­bol­ic fly­over of the NATO cap­i­tals sent a clear mes­sage of unity to poten­tial adver­saries and proved U.S. abil­i­ty to launch strate­gic mis­sion from both CONUS and Europe.

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