Members from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Russian Federation air force personnel pose for a group photo as a Tu-95 “Bear” bomber prepares to land at Engels Air Base, Russia, July 25, 2012. Col. Andrew Gebara, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, and a team of experts visited the Russian base to determine the suitability of the airfield for B-52H Stratofortress operations. (Courtesy photo)
Members from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and Russian Federation air force personnel stand in front of a monument outside of Engels, Russia, July 26, 2012. The monument is where Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, landed a Russian space capsule. Col. Andrew Gebara, 2nd Bomb Wing commander, and a team of experts visited the monument and other cultural sites in conjunction with an airfield site survey. (Courtesy photo)
by Airman 1st Class Samuel O'Brien
Air Force Global Stike Command Public Affairs
8/8/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- A delegation of five people from the 2nd Bomb Wing visited Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, last month on a goodwill mission with a dual purpose.
Team members evaluated the suitability of the airfield at Engels Air Base for B-52H operations. The outing also established initial relationships for a long range aviation bomber exchange program between the U.S. and Russia.
"We're going to fly B-52s to Russia, and they're going to fly Tu-95 Bears to Barksdale," said 2nd Bomb Wing commander, Col. Andrew Gebara, who led the Barksdale group. "It's a tremendous opportunity for our two nations to learn from each other to improve aviation technology and skills in our respective air forces."
Lt. Col. Michael Thompson, 2nd Bomb Wing director of staff, Capt. Michael Middents, 2nd Operations Support Squadron, Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Sternod, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and Master Sgt. Lance Taylor, 2nd Security Forces, made the trip with Gebara. They were joined by a U.S. Embassy Attaché from Moscow, as well as an interpreter.
While participants had hurdles with the language barrier, the team noticed some similarities.
"One of the big takeaways from our trip is that while we fly different aircraft and are from opposite ends of the globe, our objective is the same," said Thompson. "We all want to have a safe and credible deterrent force."
Engels Air Base vice commander, Col. Yuri Pelin, took the group on a tour of the base. The delegation was able to observe most of the ramp, study airfield diagrams and watch several different airframes complete landings.
"Our Russian hosts were extremely hospitable and open," said Thompson. "They made every effort to make us feel welcome and assist us in accomplishing our site survey."
The trip was also an exercise in reciprocation. Several members of the Russian team recently visited Barksdale.
"The Air Force benefits greatly from the relationships established between the U.S. and any foreign nation," said Gebara. "The Russian delegation's visit to Barksdale, followed by our trip to Engels Air Base, opened the door for future positive relationships between our two nations."
1/10/2013 1:05:37 PM ET I think a lot of American aviation buffs would love to see a TU95 make an appearance at some US airshows the sound of those bug contra-rotating props must be awesome indeed. I bet a lot of Russian would like to see a B52 come roaring over one of their airshows too
Brian Redman, Houston Texas
8/16/2012 8:23:23 AM ET I expect 2nd BW and their predecessors spent many years planning to send delegations to Engels albeit under different connditions.
Sgt F, OCONUS
8/13/2012 4:17:35 PM ET WHAT
8/13/2012 3:54:19 AM ET Not the first time. This exchange occured in 1992.
Rory Thompson, League City Texas
8/13/2012 2:27:02 AM ET Didn't Vladimir Putin just announce Russia was going to spend 723B for new aircraft this decade
8/11/2012 8:25:53 PM ET It is good to know that something started in 1992 has been renewed. Having led the first exchange with Russian Long Range Aviation I remain exceptionally proud of the 58 Barksdale Airmen who joined me on that historic visit. I am however a bit disappointed that their visit has apparently been forgotten as this article implies. As the plaque on the case holding the American flag we took in our B-52 those many years ago says Many many more will go but you led the firstCongratulations on renewal but please do not forgot those who actually established initial relationships for a long range aviation bomber exchange program between the U.S. and Russia.James G. Phillips Colonel USAF Ret.
Colonel Ret. James Phillips, Granbury Texas
8/10/2012 5:12:16 PM ET It shouldn't be hard to get information to plan the flight. I bet the old SAC archives could be extremely helpful. Although approaches and landings will probably not be covered.
8/9/2012 5:18:05 PM ET Never thought I would be alive to see this groundbreaking news and our bombers and the Russian's bombers flying into our countries. I've been retired over 17 years after a 26 year career in the Air Force and I, like Tim, wow, this blows my mind
Bob Humphress, ILLINOIS
8/9/2012 4:11:30 PM ET Just when you think you've seen everything Concur strongly with Tim.
Old Dependent, MN
8/9/2012 3:20:28 PM ET I don't really understand why this is a good idea. We are very far from having a relationship like we have with NATO and other true allies. I'm not comfortable with them flying over our country and our bomber force knows very well places they can use for contingency operations.