Even if global strike missions are routinely conducted “to ensure the U.S. has a credible capability to respond to a variety of levels of threats and to provide the President a variety of options he may need to protect the nation or its allies and partners,” launching two B-52s and two B-2s in a synchronized strike attack training mission does not happen every day.
The U.S. Air Force has recently conducted a long-range mission with two B-52 Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
The strategic bombers flew a non-stop for more than 20 hours and covered about 8,000 miles from their home stations to drop ordnance against target located inside Hawaii’s Pohakuloa military weapon range.
According to the Air Force, it was a coordinated range operation which included low approach training that enabled the air force to put their strategic force’s capability to plan, coordinate and execute such a complex mission with “the right mix” of attack platforms.
As reported by Jane’s Defense Weekly a Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman told the Interfax news agency on that it planned to establish a “missile-carrying regiment” on the Crimea near its capital, Simferopol. In a matter of a couple of years the Russian Air Force plans to have a base for a missile-carrying regiment of Tu-22M3 in the Black Sea.
“The need for [the Tu-22M3s] in the southern direction was always there, but now there are just the right conditions for them to return to the Crimea, which used to be called an unsinkable aircraft carrier,” said the spokesman according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.
In other words, a new Cold War is gearing up and Global Strike mission could soon become even more frequent.
As we reported few weeks ago, on Nov. 10, two B-52s, launched from Minot and Barksdale AFB for a training mission, flew hundreds of miles off course to give assistance to a Cessna plane that had lost radio contact with Anchorage Air Traffic Control Center in bad weather, over Alaska.
While all the details about the successful rescue mission were released by the U.S. Air Force and can be found here, little was known about the mission the two Buffs were flying when they received the distress call.
But, since then, we gathered some more information.
The two B52s that helped the Cessna were taking part in Exercise Global Thunder 14, the largest Air Force Global Strike Command/STRATCOM drills of 2013. They were just two of 18 B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and several B-2 Spirit stealth bombers airborne at that time. More than 22 KC-135s along with 24hr E-6B TACAMO and LOOKING GLASS were supporting the exercise that had started with a MITO (Minimum Interval Take Off).
Global Thunder is a yearly 10-day exercise which incorporates a nuclear war scenario of which most major CONUS air bases are simulated destroyed by ICBMs (InterContinental Ballistic Missiles). AFGSC launches its B-52s and B-2s under MITO procedures and simulate a nuclear attack on Russia. Ground forces are also deployed and simulate detonation reports.
Barksdale and Minot based B-52s conduct various routes which take some up through Alaska and over Canada hence they were over the area that Sunday when the Cessna was requesting assistance.
Noteworthy, the detour did not compromise the B-52 simulated nuclear retaliation on Russia.
The following images were taken by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder during a Green Flag – East (GF-E) training mission flown by a Barksdale Air Force Base’s 20th Bomb Squadron B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber.
GF-E is a realistic air-land integration combat training exercise meant to replicate deployed warfare conditions.
B-52s are among the assets that could take part in an eventual U.S. air strike on Syria operating from both overseas airbases (as RAF Fairford in the UK, or Diego Garcia in Indian Ocean) and their homebase in the CONUS (Continental U.S.), during round trip Global Strike missions.
The 60 years old bombers are capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet carrying a variety of weapons including nuclear and precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability.
Capt. Matthew Gray assigned to the 20th Bomb Squadron, flies a B-52H Stratofortress during a Green Flag-East training mission, Aug. 21, 2013, Fork Polk, La.
Capt. Greg Lepper, 96th Bomb Squadron B-52H Stratofortress navigator, checks the instruments while flying in Green Flag-East over Fort Polk, La., Aug. 21, 2013.
Maj. Chris Weir, B-52 Stratofortress navigator, 96th Bomb Squadron, checks the instruments while participating in Green Flag-East Aug. 21, 2013, Ft. Polk, La.
Maj. Chris Weir, left, and Capt. Greg Lepper, right, B-52 Stratofortress navigators, 96th Bomb Squadron, checks the instruments while participating in Green Flag-East Aug. 21, 2013, Ft. Polk, La.
First Lt. Reed Elsbernd assigned to the 20th Bomb Squadron, flies a B-52H Stratofortress during a Green Flag-East training mission Aug. 21, 2013, Ft. Polk, La.
The following short video shows a B-52 Stratofortress during a standard training mission of the War Week, an exercise which incorporates Aerial Refueling, Weapons Tactics and High Altitude Maneuvering.
The iconic bomber can be seen taking off, cruising, releasing simulated bombs, taking fuel midair from a KC-135 Stratotanker refueler and landing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Lousiana.
As some viewers have noticed with a bit of concern on Youtube, the B-52 used what appears to be the garden of a civil house as the target of its simulated bombing run.
Nothing special to be honest: in order to improve the skills they may need one day against actual ones, aircrews of U.S. and foreign attack planes can use civilian buildings, infrastructures located inside or outside training areas and gunnery ranges.
Buildings, bridges, highway passages can be used as simulated targets that a B-52 on a training sortie has to identify and attack using cruise missiles, GPS guided weapons, unguided munitions, mines and so on.
More than 60 years after it started to fly with the U.S. Air Force, the B-52 is still being upgraded.
The heavy bomber fleet will soon be equipped with the Sniper pod, that will enable a better integration with ground forces and provide improved precision in laser guided bomb air strikes.
“This pod gives a faster response time to our targets. What would normally take me 30 to 40 button presses in five minutes now only takes me a few seconds to actually target and drop munitions,” said Capt. Ryan Allen, 20th Bomb Squadron radar navigation instructor.
Furthermore, the pod has a greater visibility range and can feed live video to ground troops, to let them see what the Sniper pod sees.
The Sniper pod already equips fast combat jets as well as the B-1 Lancer, and with a software upgrade called Net-T (network tactical) it can be turned into a wireless router that can provide connectivity to ground troops on the battlefield.