The departure of the last two B-1s marked the end of the most recent Bomber Task Force Europe deployment.
The 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron’s B-1B Lancers and nearly 200 support personnel completed their Bomber Task Force Europe deployment at RAF Fairford, UK, on Nov. 15, 2021 , returning to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
The first two of four bombers had arrived on Oct. 6, 2021, to carry out a wide variety of missions and integrate with forces throughout the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Northern Command theaters of operations: through their month and half-long rotation, the B-1s have conducted missions all across the Continent, from the Baltic to the Black Sea areas, often flying alongside allied combat aircraft and “posing” for some nice aerial photo shootings.
“Maintaining peace and security across the globe requires a fighting force capable of maneuvering through various domains of warfare,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa in a public statement. “We are building the Agile Combat Employment framework alongside our allies and partners to launch a cohesive team, postured and ready, to respond to adversary aggression.”
The departure from the UK started on Sunday Nov. 14, when the “BONEs” (as the B-1 Lancers are dubbed in the pilot community), 86-0136 and 86-0110, took off under the callsigns ARTY01 and ARTY02 respectively.
The last two B-1s left RAF Fairford on Monday Nov. 15, 2021, at 08:40 local time under the callsigns ARTY13 (86-0140) and ARTY14 (86-0103). After departure the B-1s tanked to the north of Ireland with KC-135s LAGR721/722/723 from RAF Mildenhall before continuing their journey back to their homebase in the US.
Our friend Ben Ramsay at UK Aviation Movies was once again there and filmed them on departure.
Our friend @Saint1 posted a video, filmed from a different location than the one above, that shows the four take-offs of the B-1s over a period of two days:
In the days that preceded the final departure, the B-1s were regularly filmed taking off or landing: each launch or recovery was a shown on its own.
For instance, take a look at the footage from Nov 1, showing the BONEs returning, under the callsigns of RAGNR 01 (86-0136) and RAGNR 02 (86-0140) from a 10-hour mission:
The following clip is more recent. It was filmed on Nov. 10, as the B-1s were launching. Apart from being, as usual, a spectacular departure you also get a glimpse at the vortex generate by the far right engine’s air intake. Pretty interesting!
BTW, during that mission, the B-1B Lancers of the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron integrated with the B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Minot Air Force Base’s 5th Bomb Wing during a targeting mission throughout the North Sea region that also saw the involvement of Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 aircraft, RAF Lakenheath’s F-15D Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles, and RAF Mildenhall’s KC-135 Stratotankers.
With the departure of the last B-1, the base in Gloucestershire is much quieter now. But it will remain as such, with “just” the occasional U-2 Dragon Lady mission, until the next bomber deployment arrives.
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.