B-2 completes first deployment to Australia

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE DARWIN, Northern Territory, Australia -- The U.S. Air Force has completed its first-ever B-2 deployment on the continent of Australia. The historic event took place July 25-27 and featured training sorties on Australia’s Delamere Air Weapons Range and a B-2 Engine Running Crew Change at RAAF Darwin – the first time the B-2 has landed on Australian soil. 

Called “Green Lightning,” the Total Force mission featured B-2 Spirit Bombers from the 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and was supported by KC-10 tankers from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command’s 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron. Both units are deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. 

“Exercises like this underline the continuing importance of the Australia-U.S. alliance as an anchor of regional security in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Col. Robert Wheeler, 36th Expeditionary Operations Group commander at Andersen AFB. “This benefits both nations and will greatly improve our strategic interoperability.” 

Australian defense officials agreed, stressing the benefits Australia can gain from these training exercises. 

“Australia’s alliance with the U.S. is based on shared values and a range of mutual strategic interests,” said Diarmid Bartlett, of the Australian Defence Department’s International Policy Division. “Training and exercising with the world’s most technologically advanced armed forces provide many benefits to the Australian Defence Force which cannot be obtained through other means.” 

During Green Lightning, two B-2s made a visit to the Delamere Training Range. According to Colonel Wheeler, the Delamere Range is a world-class site, allowing for instantaneous feedback on the tactics and procedures in conducting operations over the range. 

“The range facility in Australia’s Northern Territory allows many skills to be honed and tested – no other range in the Pacific provides such facilities,” he added. “Bombers deployed to the Pacific will now be able to get training they would not have been able to get before now.” 

Although this was the first time B-2s landed in Australia, this marks a return for the 13th EBS, which arrived in Australia March 10, 1942, and flew B-25 Mitchell bombers in the first B-25 bombing missions of World War II. 

The 506th EARS Airmen – deployed from the Air Force Reserve Command’s 514th Air Mobility Wing and the Air Force’s 305th AMW at McGuire AFB, N.J. – are excited about the pivotal role they played in Green Lightning. 

“This operations a perfect example of the Air Force’s ‘total force’ in action,” said Lt. Col. Jon Spare, 506th EARS commander. “Both Air Force Reservists and active-duty Airmen cooperatively worked together to ensure the success of these missions. 

“We provided more than half a million pounds of fuel to the B-2s during Green Lightning, and it’s a credit to all of the Airmen involved that these missions were achieved with such seamless precision,” he added. 

The result of a November 2005 joint agreement between Australia and the U.S., this exercise paves the way for periodic strategic bomber aircraft training in the Northern Territory. 

“I think you can be confident U.S. bombers learned a lot from working in the Australian range and will continue to build on the great relationship between our countries,” said Colonel Wheeler. “We insure our pilots maintain their combat skills in a stressing environment and benefit from being able to exercise with the Australian Defence Force.”
The B-2 aircraft, pilots and support personnel – deployed from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo. – are at Andersen providing the U.S. Pacific Command commander a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. 

“The rotational bomber presence is aimed at enhancing regional security, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Western Pacific, and providing integrated training opportunities,” said Colonel Wheeler. “Working with our Australian allies helps us achieve all of these objectives, while continuing to build on our relationship with a great ally.” 

“Sharing training facilities with the Australians greatly enhances our ability to simulate combat conditions,” said Lt. Col. Bill Eldridge, 13th EBS commander. Colonel Eldridge was aircraft commander on the B-2 that landed at RAAF Darwin July 27 and was part of the Engine Running Crew Change. 

“During a recent Red Flag Exercise at Nellis AFB, Nev., Royal Australian Air Force aircraft exercised with our B-2s in a similar fashion to what we hope to do in the future in Australia’s training ranges,” he added. 

The 13th EBS is scheduled to remain at Andersen AFB through early September. The 506th EARS Airmen from McGuire are scheduled to return in mid-August.