NEWS | April 1, 2015

POLAR GROWL strengthens Allied interoperability, essential bomber navigation skills

By U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. – Two B-52 Stratofortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and a pair from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., completed today simultaneous, roundtrip sorties from their U.S. bases to the Arctic and North Sea regions, respectively.

The training mission, coined POLAR GROWL, allowed the aircrews to hone their navigation skills and enhanced their ability to work with Allied partners, while demonstrating U.S. Strategic Command capacity.

“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,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander. “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.”

Each of the two legs of POLAR GROWL provided unique training opportunities, all while testing the bomber force’s command and control apparatus’ ability to support two synchronized flight paths. The bomber crews flying the North Sea route participated in dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with fighter aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K.’s Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force. In addition to conducting dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with Royal Canadian Air Force fighters, bomber crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation.

“Today’s dynamic global security environment is an interdependent world where international partnerships are foundational,” Haney continued. “Exercises and operations such as these bomber flights enable and enhance relationships with our Allies and partners, and allow others to understand what capabilities U.S. Strategic Command brings to the equation.”

The U.S. regularly conducts combined training and theater security cooperation engagements with Allies and partners. The combined training provided in POLAR GROWL follows the participation of B-52s in NATO Exercise NOBLE JUSTIFICATION in October 2014 and the deployment of B-52s and B-2s to RAF Fairford, U.K., in June 2014, both of which provided occasions to train alongside U.S. Allies and partners.

"The long-range nature of the mission, coupled with the opportunity to interact, in real-time, with Allied aircraft was an invaluable experience that simply can't be replicated out of the cockpit," said Maj. Nathan Barnhart, 343rd Bomb Squadron instructor radar navigator. "Training like this ensures we are ready to respond to any and all mission directives across the globe."

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, and not directed at any country.

Additionally, U.S. forces conduct all flights in accordance with the procedures outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organization international standards and recommended practices. By conducting flights that follow the ICAOs fundamental objectives, regional safety is enhanced to prevent any chance of misunderstanding.

The B-52 Stratofortress is capable of delivering large payload of precision nuclear or conventional ordnance over long ranges, while also providing decision makers the ability to rapidly project military power and generate decisive effects.