American nuclear bombers have flown over all 30 NATO states in a show of strength ahead of Joe Biden’s first meeting with Vladimir Putin since becoming president.
Four B-52 long-range bombers took part in the European leg of Operation Allied Sky, which saw them fly over 28 of the allied states over the course of 12 hours, including the likes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuanian – on Russia’s doorstep.
At the same time, more B-52s based in the US flew through American and Canadian airspace to complete the tour of NATO members.
General Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of US and NATO air forces, called the mission ‘an awesome demonstration of NATO air superiority’ and said it proves ‘there is no challenge we cannot tackle’.
It is just the latest large-scale NATO exercise to take place ahead of a meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin scheduled for June 16 in Geneva.
An American B-52 nuclear bomber is escorted by an RAF Typhoon as it flies over the UK as part of NATO drill Allied Sky on Monday
The mission saw four B-52s fly over NATO allies in Europe over the course of 12 hours, accompanied by KC-135 Stratotankers that refuelled them mid-air (pictured)
At the same time the European mission was taking place, B-52s based in America also flew through US and Canadian airspace (pictured) to complete the tour of NATO allies
Huge sea drills involving British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth – accompanied by a submarine plus destroyers and frigates- are currently taking place near Portugal.
They will be followed up later in the month by ground exercises taking place around the Black Sea, close to the Russian border.
Operation Allied sky is now in its second year, having taken place for the first time in 2020 with six B-52 bombers – four flying over Europe, and two over the US.
It is thought another four bombers took part in the European leg of this year’s drill, after they were redeployed from America to Moron Air Base, in Spain, several weeks ago, Stars and Stripes reported.
The US Air Force did not specify how many aircraft took part in the American leg of the mission this year.
During the European mission, the bombers were escorted by 100 fighters from 22 different NATO nations.
The operation also involved KC-135 Stratotankers stationed at RAF Mildenhall in England which refuelled the flying fortresses while they were in the air.
A B-52 bomber is accompanied by Belgian fighter jets as it flies in the skies over Europe on May 31 as part of Operation Allied Sky
A B-52 bomber is accompanied by German fighter jets as it flies through the skies above Germany as part of Operation Allied Sky
Captain Kevan Thomas, a B-52 pilot, prepares to take off for the American-Canadian leg of the Allied Sky mission from a base in Louisiana
‘Bomber missions demonstrate the credibility of our forces to address a global security environment that is more diverse and uncertain than at any other time in our history,’ General Harrigian added.
It comes amid rapidly worsening relations between Russia and the West, which deteriorated further last week following the hijacking of a Ryanair flight over Belarus.
While Russia has not been directly implicated in the plot, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said it is ‘hard to believe’ Moscow wasn’t involved and Putin has been the only world leader to defend Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko.
It comes after Russia suddenly began massing forces on its border with Ukraine earlier this year, prompting fears of an invasion.
Biden and Putin agreed to their meeting amid that standoff, after the new US President had previously said he was ‘too busy’ to schedule a meeting.
Biden had also likened Putin to a ‘killer’ in an earlier interview, prompting an angry rebuke from the strongman who sarcastically wished his counterpart ‘good health’.
The US has also sanctioned Russia over what Biden said were attempts to interfere in its elections and state-sponsored hacking, among other things.
The pair will attempt to bury the hatchet in Geneva, where Biden has promised to restore ‘predictability and stability’ to American relations with Moscow.
On the agenda will be a number of sticking points, including Ukraine, Belarus, cyberattacks, and human rights issues such as the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who has complained of ill-treatment behind bars.
A Slovakian Air Force MiG-29 is seen from inside a B-52 as it escorts the bomber through European airspace as part of a joint mission
Three German Air Force Typhoons fly alongside a B-52H Stratofortress during Operation Allied Sky which took place on May 31
A B-52 bomber is shown taking off from a US Air Force base during Operation Allied Sky
NATO squares up to Russia: Britain’s £3bn aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth leads war games with US and 9 other nations in Atlantic
HMS Queen Elizabeth has led 19 Nato warships in war games off Portugal as they practise deploying to the Black Sea in a display of maritime strength just days ahead of Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Joe Biden.
The £3 billion pride of the Royal Navy was joined by vessels from the US and eight other allied nations for operation Steadfast Defender on Friday – starting off the coast of Portugal last week, it will conclude with ground exercises in the Black Sea region later this month amid simmering tensions with Russia.
The armada, which included submarines, destroyers and frigates, was backed by immense aerial support from the RAF’s brand new F-35B Lightning stealth fighters, Portuguese F-16 Fighting Falcons and Spanish F-18 Hornets, as well as hulking US anti-submarine Poseidon and Orion warplanes.
HMS Queen Elizabeth with an armada of 19 Nato warships off the coast of Portugal last Friday during the Steadfast Defender operation
The £3 billion pride of the Royal Navy ‘Big Lizzie’ leading the line on Friday as the warships practised in the Atlantic off Portgual
Nato chiefs insist the military exercises, involving 9,000 troops, are not aimed at Russia specifically, but they focus on the Black Sea region where Moscow deployed thousands of troops ahead of military drills throughout mid-April.
The display brought back memories of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and prompted US President Joe Biden to schedule a summit with Putin which will take place in Geneva later this month.
Following four years of unorthodox foreign policy under Donald Trump, Biden has said: ‘It’s time to remind everybody who we are.’
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab prepares to make his own rebuke of Putin’s ‘aggressive behaviour’ during a Nato summit later today.
‘From Russia’s aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine to Lukashenko’s assault on civil aviation, democratic values are under attack,’ Mr Raab told The Telegraph ahead of the meeting.
‘As one of the biggest contributors to Nato, UK support for the transatlantic alliance is unwavering. We will work with Allies and partners to defend our allies and our values.’
The Nato operation coincides with HMS Queen Elizabeth’s maiden voyage that will see her visit 40 countries over the next six months as Britain demonstrates its position as a global superpower post-Brexit.
The flotilla included submarines, destroyers and frigates from Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the US
A Portuguese submarine cuts through the water ahead of HMS Queen Elizabeth during exercises off the coast of Portugal on Friday