Tag Archives: Barksdale Air Force Base

U.S. Air Force pilot reaches 9,000 flying hours on the B-52 Stratofortress bomber

A U.S. Air Force pilot has celebrated 9,000 flying hours on the B-52.

Lt. Col. Steve Smith, with 93rd Bomb Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, has the most flying hours in the B-52 Stratofortress: on Oct. 8, 2014, he has reached 9,000 flying hours in the iconic strategic bombers.

Smith, achieved the milestone during a flight from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. As the image shows he celebrated the 9,000th flying hour in a “Buff” with a special shoulder patch.

By the way, the next aviator is 2,000 hours behind him.

B-52 9000 FH

 

Operation Allied Force: B-52 Stratofortress bombers involvement in the Air Campaign over Kosovo

The little but decisive role played by B-52s during Kosovo crisis.

The iconic U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber, symbol of the U.S. nuclear deterrence, has taken part in all the wars fought by Washington in the last 50 years (Syria, so far, is the only exception).

Among the conflict that saw the involvement of the “BUFFs” there is also Operation Allied Force, the air campaign conducted against Serbia in 1999.

As recalled by Bill Yenne in his book “B-52 Stratofortress The Complete History of the World’s Longest Serving and Best Known Bomber” the first calls for NATO to intervene with military airpower in response to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s campaign of ethnic cleansing of Kosovar Albanians, date back to the summer of 1998.

Then, on Oct. 10 of the same year, the US Secretary of Defense William Cohen ordered the deployment of six B-52H from the 2nd Bombardment Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base to RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom.

Two more Stratofortresses arrived at the UK base on Feb. 22, 1999 as part of the military build-up in Europe in anticipation of a war in the Balkans which would involve strategic bombers as well as several tactical planes, forward deployed at several airbases located in Italy and few other European countries. By the end of the war, 25 B-52s belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale Air Force Base and 5th Bomb Wing from Minot Air Force Base would take part in the air strikes.

The aircraft were annexed to the 2nd Air Expeditionary Group that included B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing from  and KC-135s of the 22nd Air Refueling Squadron, Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Operation Allied Force was launched on the night of Mar. 24.

Among the 250 U.S. combat planes that conducted the first air strikes there were also seven B-52s carrying AGM-86C Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles (CALCMs) aimed at the Serbian IADS (Integrated Air Defense System). Between 30 and 50 air-launched cruise missiles, targeted Serbian air defense sites, during the opening stages of the air campaign.

Initially, the B-52s followed an 8-hour round trip route that brought them above Spain and central Mediterranean Sea before reaching the launch area circumnavigating Southern Italy. Then, they were reserved special corridors across Central Italy that made the missions sensibly shorter, with a good impact on the crew and airframes’ turn over.

As soon as most of Serbian air defenses were made harmless, the B-52 transitioned from stand-off weapons to general purpose bombs and cluster bomb units, dropped on Serbian army positions and staging areas.

Two more B-52Hs arrived from the 5th Bombardment Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota, to Fairford on Apr. 29: like the Viet Cong and the Iraqi Republican Guard, Milosevic would soon discover the tremendous power of a B-52’s bomb load is a horrible thing to endure, and experiencing it firsthand is a horrible way to make that discovery.

Leaflets written in Serbian, that warned bombardments by B-52s, were also dropped over the Kosovo capital, Pristina. As reported by Yenne, the BBC translated their warning message: The Yugoslav Army forces are warned to leave Kosovo, because NATO is now using B-52 bombers to cast Mk 82 bombs, weighing 225 kilograms each… Every B-52 bomber can carry more than 50 such bombs. These aircraft will be after you until they drive you out of Kosovo… and prevent you from committing atrocities… If you want to survive and see your families again, you should abandon your units and firearms.”

B-52 sunset

As the amout of air strikes peaked between the end of May and beginning of June, some of the most persuasive missions of the war were flown by the B-52s on the first weekend of June 1999 at a place on the Kosovo – Albania border called Mount Pastrik, where the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) was fighting a sizable Serbian army force.

The results of the raids were reported by several networks around the globe such as the CNN which on Sunday, Jun. 6 stated that the NATO used B-52 bombers Saturday night into Sunday to strike areas in Kosovo, near its border with Albania. There was also military activity along the border between Albania and Kosovo.

Other B-52 strikes concentrated in an area near Gorshub, in Yugoslavia, just inside the border. The mountain plateau was also the scene of a day-long artillery and mortar battle between Yugoslav forces and KLA. Further details were added by the Reuters that on Wednesday, June 9, reported that a NATO B-52 bomber caught two Yugoslav Army battalions in the open after Serbia stalled on pulling its troops out of Kosovo . The B-52 dropped sticks of gravity bombs on the troop concentrations near the Kosovo – Albania border Monday, carpeting a hillside area where some 400 to 800 soldiers were estimated to have been in the field. Moreover the Reuters added that NATO military spokesman Gen. Walter Jerts confirmed that “heavy bombers had been diverted at short notice to attack troops in Kosovo.”

The same day Dana Priest of the Washington Post wrote that “at least a month ago, NATO commanders began using B-52s to herd troops on the ground into more open and vulnerable areas (because there are no NATO troops on the ground to do this). […] On Monday, a pair of B-52s and B-1Bs dropped 86 Mk 82s… on a concentration of several hundred Serb troops near Mt. Pastrik region.”

Few days after this air raid, on Jun. 10, NATO ratified the terms of an international peace plan and stopped the seventy-eight-day air campaign. Two days later as told once again by Dana Priest “Slobodan Milosevic unexpectedly capitulated…Milosevic signed an agreement allowing the invasion of 50,000 NATO soldiers – but as peacekeepers, not warriors.”

A great achievement, reached also thanks to the BUFF aircrews who played a small but vital part in Operation Allied Force.

Written with David Cenciotti

 Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

 

[Photo] U.S. B-2 stealth bomber suffers bird strike while landing at UK base

B-2 involved in a mission launched from the UK hit a bird on landing at RAF Fairford

Aerial refuelers are extremely important to support strategic bombers long-range missions across the world.

During their stay in the UK, the B-52s from both Barksdale Air Force Base and Minot AFB, and the B-2s from Whiteman AFB, temporarily deployed to RAF Fairford, were supported by the KC-135 Stratotankers of the 100 ARW (Air Refueling Wing) based at RAF Mildenhall.

Indeed, as they routinely do when they operate from their homebase in Missouri, the two B-2s from the 509th Bomb Wing were involved a 20-hour training mission within USEUCOM and AFRICOM area of operation: the two stealth bombers, supported also by tankers launched from Lajes, Azores, flew to the south of Ascension, a volcanic island in the equatorial waters in South Atlantic Ocean, and back.

The aircraft took off on Wednesday at 15.00z LT and routed down towards Lands End and down towards an area off Portugal before running south down past the Canaries. They were refuelled by SPUR 61 flight south of the Azores taking them down towards the Cape Verde Islands. A second wave of tankers, SPUR 51 flight then refuelled them on their return journey before they arrived back at Fairford on Thursday 1200z.

Such round trip long range missions are normally flown from CONUS (Continental US), or from Diego Garcia and Andersen AFB at Guam, and are a bit rare from the UK even if RAF Fairford is one of three bases for B-2 operations outside the U.S.

Noteworthy, the Stealth Bombers mission was closely monitored by aircraft spotters and airband listeners who logged the aircraft throughout their flight (flown with radio callsign “ICOSA”).

Interestingly, while landing at the end of the mission flown the morning ahead of the 20 hr sortie, one of the B-2, AV-4 – 82-1069 “Spirit of Indiana” suffered a birdstrike, as the images taken by photographer Matthew Morris show (before and after the hit): fortunately, the “close encounter” did not cause any serious problem to the B-2, but it proved stealth bombers are invisible to radars…and birds.

Bird_Strike

Image credit: Matthew Morris

 

Three U.S. B-52 strategic bombers have deployed to the UK

Three B-52 Stratofortress bombers have arrived at RAF Fairford, UK, for a mini-deployment lasting two weeks.

On Jun. 4, two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and one from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, B-52 (currently operating from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota) landed at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, for a short deployment.

The aircraft relocated to Europe to conduct training activity “in the U.S. European Command area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.”

Although the official release does not mention it, a patch produced for the deployment suggests that the B-52s were deployed to take part in the Baltops and Saber Strike 2014 exercises.

Whereas Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) 2014 is an annual multinational maritime exercise held in the Baltics with assets from 13 participating nations involved in training scenarios that include air, surface, subsurface and mine warfare, Saber Strike is a U.S. Army Europe-led security cooperation exercise which, focuses, on the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

In such exercises as well as in real operations, the B-52s always play an important role: all weather nuclear deterrence aside, the Stratofortress can perform a wide variety of conventional missions ranging from the BAI (Battlefield Area Interdiction) to CAS (Close Air Support), to TASMO (Tactical Air Support to Maritime Operations), to SAR (Search And Rescue)… using GPS and Laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and aerial mines.

Once there was Pivot to Asia. Nowadays there is a Pivot to the Baltics.

During the deployment to Fairford, lasting about two weeks (and according to rumors involving more B-52s coming from U.S. airbases in the next few days), a Stratofortress will also take part in the 70th anniversary D-Day commemoration in Graignes, France, on Jun. 7.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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Barksdale’s B-52s to get the first woman commander of a combat Bomber Wing ever

2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base to get first woman commander of a combat bomber wing in the next weeks.

Even if it has not been officially confirmed, according to the Times Col. Kristin E. Goodwin, a 1993 graduate of the Air Force Academy who’s served since June as vice commander of the 509th Bomb Wing (nation’s only B-2 Spirit unit at Whiteman AFB, Missouri), will be appointed to lead 2nd BW at Barksdale Air Force Base, in Lousiana in the next weeks.

Goodwin, with more than 2,700 hours in the B-2, EC-130 and C-130 aircraft, has recently got her Stratofortress qualification: a requirement to lead one of the U.S. Air Force’s premier bomb units.

If confirmed, the selection of the first female commander would be just the latest of a long series of firsts for Barksdale: not only it was the first homebase of all-jet bomber wing, but it also was the first base to host Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers on a courtesy visit.  More recently, it was the base to which then-President George W. Bush flew in the aftermath of 9-11 terrorist attacks, and from where he spoke to the nation.

Image credit: Christopher A. Ebdon

 

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