Tag Archives: 2d Bomb Wing

Three B-2s and “several” B-1s have deployed to Guam to deter China and North Korea

The U.S. Air Force has just deployed three B-2 Spirits stealth bombers to Guam. They have joined the B-1s already there. Not far from the troubled waters of Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

On Aug. 9, three B-2 Spirit bombers with the 509th Bomb Wing, have deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, in Guam, to conduct extended deterrence operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific theater, where China is conducting a pseudomilitary campaign of expansion into the East and South China Seas.

For instance, the most recent satellite imagery shows China continues to show intention of militarizing the Spratly Islands.

The stealth bombers, from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, are due to be involved in what the U.S. Pacific Command defined a “short-term deployment” during which they will conduct “local and regional training sorties, and will integrate capabilities with key regional partners, ensuring bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness and crew proficiency.”

The last time the B-2s deployed there was in March this year when three B-2 stealth bombers from the 509th Bomb Wing, flew to Guam amid growing tensions with North Korea.

Interestingly, the B-2s have joined the “several” B-1B Lancers (“Bones” in accordance with the nickname used by their aircrews) that arrived in Guam on Aug. 6, marking the first B-1 deployment there in a decade.

The aircraft, belonging to the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, have replaced the B-52s in supporting the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) Continuous Bomber Presence mission.

“Andersen welcomes the B-1 squadron, and we look forward to working together to provide safety and security to the region, our partners and our allies,” said Brig. Gen. Douglas Cox, 36th Wing commander in an Air Force release. “The B-52s did an amazing job the past few years, and we know the B-1s will continue CBP excellence going forward.”

The B-1 units bring years of repeated combat and operational experience from the Central Command theater to the Pacific. The aircraft should have just received some additional cockpit upgrades during works conducted after the Bones returned stateside in January 2016, after a 6-month deployment worth 3,800 munitions on 3,700 targets in 490 sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS, during which the B-1s carried out Close Air Support and Air Interdiction missions delivering a wide variety of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), including JDAMs on Daesh positions.

Noteworthy, unlike the B-52 and the B-2, the B-1B had been taken out from the Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) rotation at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base because it can’t carry any kind of nuclear weapon. So, the Lancer deployment in the regions brings a conventional heavy bomber within striking distance of China and North Korea.

Still, Pyongyang accused Washington of planning a pre-emptive nuclear strike, after the US announced it was deploying B-1 bombers in the Pacific for the first time in a decade.

B-1 in Guam

Will the B-1s also deploy to Australia, even closer to Beijing or Pyongyang than Guam?

Back in March, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force, told to Reuters that the U.S. could deploy long-range bombers to Australia as concerns over China’s military expansion in the Asia-Pacific area continue to grow.

At that time, high-level discussions were in progress to deploy B-1 bombers in northern Australia and to expand B-52 bomber missions in the region a move that was aimed to add more pressure on China. Now that the Stratofortress bombers have been replaced by the Lancers it’s unclear whether the U.S. Air Force has achieved an agreement with the local government and plans to fly any B-1s from there.

Lancers deployments on the Australian continent were considered in the past but none of these rumors ever turned into the real thing.

Anyway, U.S. Strategic Command’s assets are particularly active lately: whilst B-52s support Operation Inherent Resolve from Al Udeid in Qatar, B-52s were deployed to RAF Fairford, UK, in May and June, where the bombers participated in U.S. European Command Exercises BALTOPS and SABER STRIKE. Additionally, earlier this month, five B-52s and B-2s from all three of the U.S.’s strategic bomber bases took part in “POLAR ROAR,” flying simultaneous missions to the Arctic, the Baltic Sea and Alaska. During their last deployment to Guam, B-2s performed a running crew change at RAAF Tindal airbase in Australia on Mar. 22.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

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Five U.S. Strategic bombers conduct simultaneous missions around the North Pole and over Alaska

Dubbed “Polar Roar” the latest show of force saw U.S. bombers flying to the North and Baltic Seas in a Cold War-style exercise.

One B-52H Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La., two B-52Hs from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, N.D., and two B-2A Spirits from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., were launched in simultaneous, non-stop flights from the U.S. to the North and Baltic Seas, around the North Pole and over Alaska, and over the Pacific Ocean to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, respectively.

The mission, dubbed “POLAR ROAR”, saw some of the bombers drop inert weapons (in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex) and included joint training with some regional partners whose fighters had the opportunity to intercept the heavy bombers.

Interestingly, during their trasit through the European region, the Danish F-16s supporting NATO’s continuous Baltic Air Policing mission, along with JAS-39 Gripens from the Partnership for Peace nation of Sweden.  Additionally, Typhoons from Great Britain – one of the Baltic Air Policing detachments – were airborne in western Estonia training areas while the bomber transited the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast.

As highlighted by one of our sources, it’s worth a note the fact that the Russian Su-27s based at Kaliningrad, were not scrambled to perform VID (Visual Identification) of the Stratofortress bomber in the Baltic:  the Flankers are frequently launched to intercept the U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint deployed to RAF Mildenhall and flying almost daily off the Russian Oblast. Moreover, the NATO countries always scramble their QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters when the Russian Tu-95 or Tu-160 bombers transit in international airspace off their sovereign airspace.

Realistic exercises like POLAR ROAR are conducted periodically in coordination with North American Aerospace Defense Command: usually, on a 24-hour period, during these drills nearly every USSTRATCOM component, task force, unit, command post and bomb wing takes part in the training events which are aimed at improving all the Command capabilities: space, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global strike, and ballistic missile defense.

B-52 and B-2s perform their MITO departures and go up to the Arctic and back, controlled by several E-6B Mercury aircraft.

Some strategic bombers route up over Nova Scotia and up past Thule/Greenland and either go all the way around North of Canada and back down through Canada/Alaska or they turn round and go back the way they came. Other waves go up over Alaska first and come back down viceversa.

According to the U.S. Air Force “POLAR ROAR demonstrates the ability of the U.S. bomber force to provide a flexible and vigilant long-range global-strike capability and provides unique and valuable opportunities to train and integrate with allies and partners.”

In simple words: it’s a message to Russia. Noteworthy, after such U.S. Strategic Command yearly exercise, a surge in missions flown by the Russian Air Force bombers close to European airspaces is recorded by NATO.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

USAF B-52s perform show of force in Jordan during 35-hour nonstop mission from the U.S.

Eager Lion 2016 opened by two U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers.

On May 24, two B-52 Stratofortress bombers from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, conducted a 35-hour, 14,000-mile round-trip mission to Jordan, to perform a show of force alongside the partner Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF) in Exercise Eager Lion 2016.

Eager Lion 2016

As happened last year, during the nonstop mission (that included four aerial refueling operations) the B-52s conducted air intercept training with Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16s and executed a live conventional weapons demonstration directed jointly by JAF and U.S. JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers).

“Executing these global bomber training missions supports successful integration into geographic combatant command and multinational operations, such as the current B-52 deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve,” said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander in a release. Indeed, the B-52s are currently deployed to the CENTCOM area or responsibility taking part in the air war against Daesh from Al Udeid airbase, in Qatar.

Eager Lion 2016

USSTRATCOM’s bomber force regularly conducts theater security operations with allies and partners, demonstrating the U.S. capability to launch and manage global strike missions anywhere.

The Buff’s participation in Eager Lion 2016 follows the deployment of B-52s to Morón Air Base, Spain, in February and March, to take part in Norwegian Exercise Cold Response and French Exercise Serpentex, as well as the deployment of B-2 Spirits to the Indo-Asia-Pacific in March.

Eager Lion 2016

Additionally, in April a B-52 flew a sortie to France to integrate with the French Air Force, and a B-52 also flew to South America to train with the Colombian air force.

Exercise “Eager Lion” is a recurring multinational exercise designed to strengthen military-to-military relationships, increase interoperability between partner nations, and enhance regional security and stability.

Eager Lion 16 marks the second consecutive year of the integration of +50 years old heavy bomber into the exercise.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

Dutch F-16s intercepted U.S. B-52 bombers over Europe. And took some awesome photographs

U.S. Air Force B-52s launched on round-trip missions to the Arctic and North Sea last week were used as simulated targets for Dutch F-16s on Quick Reaction Alert.

On Apr. 2 two U.S. B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers, one assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and the other assigned to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted round-trip missions from their home bases to the Arctic and North Sea regions respectively.

The two bombers were taking part in “Polar Growl”, an exercise aimed at testing the ability of the aircraft and their aircrews to operate with international partners in the northern part of the globe.

One of the aircraft, the one belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale, flew in the North Sea and was intercepted multiple times by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K. Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52

The other “Buff” on the Arctic leg, belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot,  flew with Canadian CF-188 fighters and around the North Pole.

Interestingly the Dutch F-16s of the RNlAF took some stunning photographs of the (quite rusty!) B-52 they intercepted over the North Sea.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52 2

The U.S. regularly conducts similar combined training and theater security engagements with Allies and partners. In October 2014, B-52s were involved in NATO Exercise NOBLE JUSTIFICATION while in June of the same year Air Force Global Strike Command B-52s and B-2s deployed to RAF Fairford, U.K., in to train alongside regional partners.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52 4

Last time U.S. bombers were launched on Arctic missions, the Russians reacted with a spike in missions flown by their warplanes in the Baltic Sea and around the Scandinavian peninsula.

Image credit: Frank Crébas/Koninklijke Luchtmacht