Two Air Force B-1B Lancers conducted a Bomber Task Force mission over Norway Friday, the first such mission this year and the first time Lancers have flown out of the Northern European country.

The exercise highlights the increasing importance of the Arctic in the national defense strategy.

The B-1Bs from 7th Bomb Wing out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, comprising the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, completed tactical integration exercises with Norwegian F-35s and naval assets Feb. 26, the Air Force said. The mission took place near the Norwegian Sea.

The mission comes just weeks after U.S. European Command announced Feb. 2 that it was temporarily deploying 200 personnel and an expeditionary B-1B Lancer squadron from Dyess to Norway’s Orland air base for such operations.

“It’s fitting we got to kick this BTF off with a mission that highlights our ability to integrate with our Norwegian allies across multiple domains,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa commander, in an Air Force news release. “This type of interoperability is especially critical in the Arctic, where no one nation has the infrastructure or capacity to operate alone.”

The Air Force has routinely said that these Bomber Task Force missions aim to highlight U.S. commitment to NATO and to send a clear deterrence message to any adversary.

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