Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the commander of the Germany-based US 3rd Air Force, told reporters today that the recent deployment of a substantial number of nuclear-capable bombers to Britain was done to prove America’s military commitment to the rest of NATO.
The B-1B, B-2, and B-52 bombers have been deployed to the Royal Air Force base in Fairford. The sudden presence of the bombers in northern Europe became of particular issue last week, when a Russian Su-27 fighter had to scramble to intercept one of the B-52 bombers that was approaching Russian airspace.
Lt. Gen. Richard Clark didn’t offer any real details about last week’s incident, but insisted it was no cause for concern, and that this amounted to “standard practice.” Officials say this is the first time in history all three models of US strategic (read: nuclear) bombers have been present in Europe.
While there have been a few occasions in the past year in which US or NATO warplanes have had to go out and intercept a Russian bomber perceived as getting too close to their airspace, it is very rare indeed for he situation to be reversed. That a nuclear-capable B-52 was suddenly hugging the Russian coast in the Baltic Sea was virtually unprecedented, despite the claim of standard practice, and caused major concern among Russian military officials.