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Koa Lightning sharpens B-52 aircrews' war fighting skills

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eric Petosky
  • Kenny Headquarters Public Affairs (Deployed)
The B-52 aircrews of the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., are keeping their war fighting skills sharp as part of the United States' continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region.

A highlight of the "Barons" first 30 days at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, is their participation in Pacific Command's Koa Lightning exercise, consisting of four long-duration training missions to Hawaiian airspace and back to Guam. These missions provided a gauntlet of challenging scenarios designed to hone the combat edge of both the 23rd EBS and Pacific forces.

"The last two weeks of long duration sorties provided excellent training for our crews," said Lt. Col. Gerald Hounchell, 23rd EBS commander. "These 18-hour sorties were very representative of a typical B-52 combat sortie and demonstrated our ability to employ the B-52 throughout the Pacific theater."

A heavy bomber presence presents an opportunity for dissimilar aircraft combat training, according to Maj. Jim Jagodzinski, 23rd EBS Mission Planning Cell chief. "We worked with fighter units to set up air-to-air intercept training," he said. "Recently, we pitted four F-15s against two B-52s escorted by four F-16s. The B-52s had targets to strike, and the fighters were attempting to 'shoot' them down. It's very beneficial training for all parties involved."

The 18-hour, 6,880-nautical mile flight to Hawaii and back requires two air refuelings for the B-52s. Two KC-135 tankers from Andersen's 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, deployed from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., supported the first refueling. Tanker fuel off loads in excess of 90,000 pounds permit extended loiter time in the weapons employment area and additional holding time if there is severe weather over Guam.

Once in Hawaiian airspace, the B-52s coordinated with forward air controllers to deliver simulated Joint Direct Attack Munitions. The electronic warfare officers onboard the B-52s get their fair share of training as well. A Multiple Threat Emitter System simulates threat scenarios the EWOs can counter to maintain their proficiency.

Outside the long-range missions, crews stay busy with local training missions, according to Major Jagodzinski. Those missions consist of air refueling practice, electronic warfare proficiency, and bombing simulations over the Farallon de Medinilla Training Range, an uninhabited 200-acre island 150 miles north of Guam. Future exercises will involve live and inert munitions.

"The outstanding support from the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and flawless sortie execution by the aircrews allowed us to meet U.S. Pacific Command's goal of incorporating B-52s into joint training opportunities in the Pacific," said Lt. Col. Hounchell.