Four of the U.S. Air Force’s massive B-52 Stratofortress bombers participated Apr. 3 in Polar Growl, an international training mission over the Arctic and North Sea designed to practice working with allies and to demonstrate U.S. military capabilities. But, the U.S Strategic Command says, Polar Growl was not growling at anybody in particular.
Here’s a video from the Air Force’s Second Bomb Wing that describes the mission.
Two of the B-52s hailed from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota (where airmen are used to frigid polar temperatures), and the other two flew out from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. In addition to this, aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force also took part in the long-range training exercise.
“Flown in support of both U.S. European Command and U.S. Northern Command, POLAR GROWL was specifically designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Allies and enhancement of regional security,” U.S. Strategic Command said in a press release, “and not directed at any country.”
Though StratCom maintains that Polar Growl was not designed to threaten a particular country, this military training operation comes at a time when Russian bombers are conducting provocative sorties across Europe and near U.S. coasts.
Adm. Bill Gortney of the North American Aerospace Defense Command recently told the media that these Russian bombers are sending a message. “They are messaging us. They are messaging us that they are a global power,” Gortney told Defense News. He also mentioned that the U.S. military does not act too differently, saying that, “we do the same sort of thing.”
In the past, Russian military aircraft were criticized for flying too close to contested airspace and conducting operations without transponders. StratCom says that Polar Growl was conducted in accord with international aviation standards.
“These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally-recognized flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination,” Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the StratCom commander, said. “They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols, and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space.”