The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has arrived in Europe for the type’s first overseas deployment since the entire fleet was temporarily grounded in 2022.

Imagery released by the Pentagon on 13 August shows two of the nuclear-capable US Air Force (USAF) flying-wing bombers arriving in Keflavik, Iceland to participate in a rotational NATO bomber task force (BTF).

“BTFs provide US and NATO leaders with strategic options to assure, deter and defend against adversary aggression against the alliance, throughout Europe, and across the globe,” the Pentagon says.

The USAF’s command overseeing Europe and Africa notes there have been regular rotations of strategic bombers to NATO territory since 2018. Three of the stealthy flying wing bombers are participating in the current deployment.

The recent milestone marks the stealth bomber’s first participation in an overseas deployment since the B-2 fleet was temporarily grounded in December 2022, following a non-fatal crash at the type’s home station of Whiteman AFB, Missouri. 

That incident, which the USAF at the time described as “an in-flight malfunction during routine operations” forced an emergency landing that damaged one of the multi-billion-dollar aircraft. No aircrew or ground personnel were injured in the hard landing.

The USAF maintains only a small 20-aircraft fleet of the ultra-expensive B-2. The type is the only stealthy heavy bomber in the USAF inventory.

Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the USA’s bomber force, cleared the B-2 to resume flight operations in May. The service did not disclose the exact nature of the problem that forced the grounding.

Although the B-2 has recently been on the sidelines, American bombers have still been an active presence in Europe throughout the stealth bomber’s grounding period.

In June, Boeing B-1B Lancer supersonic bombers from Texas participated in the previous BTF Europe mission, based at RAF Fairford in the UK. That rotation also saw the first-ever landing of a US bomber in Sweden.

The B-1B lost its nuclear mission and was physically converted to a conventional-only bomber in 2007, according to the USAF, under the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the USA and Russia.