The Bomber Exchange Program

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Barksdale Air Force Base members and Russian Federation air force personnel pose for a group photo as a Tu-95 "Bear" bomber prepares to land on Engels Air Base, Russia, July 25

Remember in high school how there’d always be these exchange students from exotic locales from around the world who’d attend classes with you for a year? How it was supposed to nurture international understanding and good will? That seems to be the idea behind what the U.S. Air Force has dubbed “a long-range aviation bomber exchange program.”

“We’re going to fly B-52s to Russia, and they’re going to fly Tu-95 Bears to Barksdale,” 2nd Bomb Wing Commander Colonel Andrew Gebara told an Air Force Global Strike Command (hardly the chummiest of names if your goal is world peace and harmony) reporter recently. Gebara recently led a seven-member delegation from Louisiana’s Barksdale Air Force Base to Engels Air Base in Saratov, Russia, to assess the Russian base’s suitability for B-52 ops.

But don’t worry: they’re not getting too cozy. At a celebration of the Russian air force’s 100th anniversary Saturday, President Vladimir Putin promised to provide the flying service with 600 new planes by 2020. No immediate word on whether any might be refurbished B-52s.