The famous B-2 Spirit bomber stopped in Norway in late August, marking the first time the stealth airframe has ever landed on the Scandinavian ally’s territory – and, of course, in Russia’s military backyard, which meant Russian President Putin was indeed watching quite closely.
“On Tuesday, the plane arrived at Orland Air Base for hot pit refueling, a procedure that minimizes the jet’s time on the ground and allows it to quickly gas up without shutting down its engines before relaunching,” Stars and Stripes reported.
“This clever technique extends our reach, establishing temporary operational hubs at strategically chosen and even unpredictable locations,” U.S. Air Force Gen. James Jecker said.
The B-2 in Scandinavia
The B-2 that landed in Norway is one of three B-2 bombers typically stationed at Whiteman Air Base in Missouri that were currently deployed at Keflavik Air Base in Iceland.
Supporting the B-2 bombers are about 150 airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing. They were deployed to Iceland on Aug. 13. The B-2 deployment to Iceland marks the stealth bomber’s first deployment to Europe since 2021.
“While in Europe, the B-2 bombers are training with NATO and U.S. Air Force units for an undisclosed duration,” Stars and Stripes reported. “The brief mission to Norway comes as the Air Force continues to practice its agile combat employment concept. One of its goals is to move aircraft and airmen around to different airfields and avoid making them a static target in the event of a large-scale conflict.”
Don’t Forget About Sweden
Curiously, the agile combat employment concept on display in Norway harkens to the capabilities of another Scandinavian country: Sweden.
Sweden uses the Flygbassystem 90, a unique force dispersal concept that avoids the concentration of aircraft and ground crews at conventional air bases and instead disperses Swedish air power all over the country. Flygbassystem relies on a system of smaller airbases, as well as regular highways that were modified to serve as aircraft runways when needed.
Obviously, the Flygbassystem was developed with a specific adversary in mind: Russia (or the Soviet Union). The U.S. agile combat employment concept and the B-2 presence in Iceland and Norway were conceived with the same adversary in mind.
The B-2s, which are capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons, have been conducting “strategic bomber missions in Europe since 2018 to familiarize crews with the territory, as well as with NATO allies and partners.”
The B-2 is especially well equipped for international conflict. According to the bomber’s manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, the B-2 can travel 6,000 nautical miles on one tank of fuel, and reach “any point in the world within hours.” The B-2 is among the most recognizable airframes in the world. With its flying wing design and black, radar-dampening coating, the B-2 looks like something out of the Batman universe.
I would argue that despite its advanced tech, the B-2 is not useful enough to justify its cost — a stunning $2 billion per aircraft. Accordingly, the B-2 will be phased out.
Instead, the Air Force will rely on the mysterious B-21 Raider, of which little is known other than its resemblance to the B-2’s flying wing design.
In the meantime, the B-2 can still serve to send a warning to Russia.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.