Bombers span 5K miles, demonstrate capability during busy week of operations

  • Published
  • By Capt. Raymond Geoffroy
  • Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Strategic bomber crews and support Airmen at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, demonstrated the flexibility and reach of airpower as they conducted eight joint and bi-lateral training sorties that spanned more than 5,000 miles across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, June 13 through 20.


These missions were in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s continuous bomber presence mission, now in its twelfth year of existence.


“U.S. Air Force strategic bomber deployments to the Indo-Asia-Pacific offer PACOM a uniquely flexible power projection platform that closes the tyranny of distance and ensures our ability to reassure allies and partners and demonstrate U.S. resolve across the region,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Dillon, Pacific Air Forces vice commander.


During the week, Airmen from Andersen AFB, operating B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, flew to Darwin, Australia, to perform bi-lateral training with approximately 3,000 Australian personnel, including multiple aircraft, Joint Terminal Attack Controller and Command and Control elements. The week-long training event concluded with a B-52 static display open to Australian military personnel to give them an up close look at the aircraft.


As this training was underway, another formation of two B-52s from Andersen AFB conducted a mission in the vicinity of Japan and Korea to conduct joint and bi-lateral training. This mission involved coordination with Japanese aircraft, as well as Close Air Support training with the III Marine Expeditionary Force and 607th Air Support Operations Group JTACs.


Finally, B-52s from Andersen also conducted a first-ever live fire integration with the U.S. Navy Guided Missile Destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) which involved employing multiple munitions on the Farallon de Medinilla weapons range near Guam.


“This was an aggressive week of operations, but I’m proud to say our Airmen rose to the challenge, showing presence and conducting invaluable joint, ally and partner training from North East Asia, all the way to Australia and everywhere in between,” Dillon said.


Of note, the week of heightened operations occurred less than a month after the loss of one of Andersen’s B-52s when the crew was forced to abort take-off at the end of the runway. While no Airmen were injured in the incident, it left the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at Andersen AFB short one bomber with a busy docket of missions to complete. Within two weeks of the accident, a new bomber arrived and Airmen executed the missions as scheduled.


“Despite the loss of one of our aircraft and the bomber crew's very close call, our combat aviators kept on trucking,” said Lt. Col Jeremy Holmes, 69th EBS commander. “We saw our warrior ethos shine just a bit brighter then, and after. That's when we saw the true teamwork, attitude and fighting spirit of our squadron.”


With the focus on the rebalance of the Pacific there is a greater emphasis on conducting training with joint and partner forces while conducting bomber missions.


“As we plan these mission we are adding greater layers of joint, bilateral and multilateral integration to get better training for the crews. This gives us an enhanced show of presence, plus improved interoperability with our joint and coalition partners,” said Maj. Kenneth Sterling, 613th Air Operations Center Bomber Liaison Officer stationed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam.


“The big picture when you’re working with the joint and partner forces is figuring out what we all can do together. The more you train together, the better you understand what each player brings to the fight in terms of our specific abilities and limitations, and how you can use each other’s capabilities to offset each other’s limitations,” he continued


U.S. Pacific Command’s area of responsibility covers fifty-two percent of the globe, which makes strategic bombers a valuable asset to ensure effective long-range global attack capability, assuring our allies while deterring potential adversaries.


“Bombers are uniquely suited to this region, because we have the legs to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ with minimal refueling. We also have greater communication capability -- a B-52 has multiple radios and five individuals who can simultaneously perform mission monitoring, coordination and execution, which reduces our dependency on support aircraft. In short, we can go farther and with less support aircraft all while carrying a four-to-eight-fighter aircraft formation’s worth of ordnance to a mission,” Sterling explained.


“Simply put, the Pacific is big, but so are we, in size, range, and payload. I'd say the B-52 is suited quite well to operating in the Pacific,” Holmes said. “The same goes for the other two bomber types in the bull pen. Big range and payload go a long way in this area of operation.”


This unique capability enables U.S. Airmen to play a key role in ensuring stability and prosperity in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.


“We expect a lot from our bomber Airmen, as do our country, and partner nations. Due to the unique operational environment in the Pacific, every mission, whether it is local training sortie or a Pacific Power Projection mission is important. Every time our bomber crews go gear in the wells, the very best is required of them,” Holmes said.