All we know about the U.S. B-2 bombers 30-hour round trip mission to pound Daesh in Libya

Jan 20 2017 - 6 Comments
By Tom Demerly

In a massive two-aircraft nighttime precision strike supported by at least one armed drone U.S. Air Force stealth bombers have killed over 80 ISIL insurgents south of the coastal city of Sirte, Libya.

As already reported, two U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base carried out a precision air strike on Daesh training camps in Libya on Jan. 18, 2017.

DoD officials characterized the strike as a “huge success” in a statement issued on Jan. 19.

The multiple terrorist camps struck on Wednesday were once an ISIL stronghold in Libya. The targets were hit with 108 precision-targeted, air-delivered weapons. There was no indication of how the targeting data was provided. Following the airstrike by B-2s at least one remotely piloted vehicle (MQ-9 Reaper according to some sources, MQ-1 Predator according to others) launched supporting strikes using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles against ISIS fighters trying to run to safety.

“In conjunction with the Libyan Government, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Wednesday night destroying two ISIL camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirtem,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

This continuation of U.S. air action over Libya further extends U.S. combat operations in the region bringing the number of airstrikes by U.S. forces to nearly 500.

This latest round of heavy strikes was authorized by outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, indicating that the targets were of significant strategic value to the conflict. The camps were established by ISIL insurgents following a protracted combined ground and air campaign by a coalition of nations including Libya to eliminate the terrorist influence in the region.

The strikes were flown from the continental United States directly to Libya and back but, unlike what happened in 2011, during the opening phases of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the raid was far from being unnoticed: the aircraft flew under radio callsign CLIP11 (93-1087) CLIP12 (89-0129) and CLIP13 (82-1068) with the latter one being the spare aircraft.

According to some sources, a fourth B-2 was involved in the raid but only three were monitored by airband listeners and this would be coherent with the standard Spirit procedures that usually involve a single spare aircraft.

A total of 15 tankers (KC-135 and KC-10) participated in the operation, enabling the B-2s to fly the more than 30 hours round-trip to the target from their home base in Missouri.

According to the U.S. Air Force, planners at 18th Air Force and the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott AFB coordinated the tanker mission.

The 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, was one of the units that contributed tankers to the refueling mission. Then, after crossing the Pond, the B-2s were refueled off Gibraltair by KC-135s belonging to the 100th ARW launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, whose racetracks could be tracked online by means of ADS-B.

The USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) and USS Porter (DDG-78), both Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyers, supported the operation as they steamed north of Libya on station in the Mediterranean.

According to Defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) and post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment) were conducted by U-28A aircraft from 319th SOS even though the participation of USAF RQ-4 Global Hawk drones, that have often conducted missions over North Africa and Syria seems to be quite likely.

Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri prepare B-2 Spirit stealth bombers for operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017 destroying two Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Pfiester)

The B-2 Spirit is a unique asset to the American military, with no comparable low-observable, heavy precision strike asset being fielded by any other nation. The aircraft became operational in early 1997 and launched its first combat strike soon after in KosTwo B-2 Spirit stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base carried out a precision air strike in Libya on Jan. 18, 2017.ovo in 1999. There are fewer than twenty of the aircraft in Air Force inventory.

A B-2 Spirit stealth bomber lands at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Jan. 19, 2017. Two B-2s returned after an approximate 30-hour sortie in support of operations near Sirte, Libya. In conjunction with the Libyan Government of National Accord, the U.S. military conducted precision airstrikes Jan. 18, 2017, destroying two Daesh camps 45 kilometers southwest of Sirte. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joel Pfiester)

The B-2 Spirit is operated by the legacy 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB in Knob Noster, Missouri. The 509th Bomb Wing was originally formed in late WWII expressly to conduct the first operational nuclear strikes on Japan in 1945. The unit operated a modified version of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress and launched two operational nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only active use of nuclear weapons by a nation in warfare.

Written with David Cenciotti

 

  • leroy

    I always marvel at the B-2, and can’t wait to see what the B-21 looks like. This bomber is the pinnacle of aviation technology, and America bult it. No other country could have even come close. Not a single one. No nation could have mastered this extremely complex technology. Russia and China can’t even come close.

    No one dares challenge U.S. air power. Not a single country on Earth! The U.S. Air Force, Marines and Navy without a doubt control the skies of the world – and we can thank God for it. Can you imagine what Xi or Putin would do if they had this power at their fingertips? I shudder to think.

  • Bruce Hand

    What a waste of money!

  • Bruce Hand

    What a extreme waste of money!

    • Stuart Carrol

      This “waste of money” is allowing you to sit wherever you are, in safety. I think it is a wonderful use of taxpayer money.

  • leroy

    The U.S. is working on the next gen bomber (B-21), then the next gen, then the next, and the next. China and Russia will never catch up. Never! At least not for the next 100 years. We are too far ahead, our science too advanced. The only hope for our enemies? Don’t piss us off!

  • aitzetm

    Hi,
    after Trump (!), this will be more easy for Russians (!) flying from Latakia – after all, it is against IS (!).