USSTRATCOM bombers practice key capabilities

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Malia Jenkins
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
B-52H Stratofortress aircrew members from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted the first flying mission supporting the multi-national exercises Saber Strike 15 and BALTOPS 15, in conjunction with B-2 ground and air crews who performed hot-pit refueling and engine-running crew changes June 8, 2015, at Royal Air Force Fairford, England.

During an approximately nine-hour sortie, aircrew members demonstrated the B-52's ability to project strength to our allies and adversaries with simulated air strikes, by flying into allied airspace, conducting a low pass and completing combat air support operations with Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from Poland.

"We practice our capabilities all the time at Minot AFB, but to do it in Poland and with our allies is good training," said Maj. Luke Dellenbach, 69th Bomb Squadron director of staff. "Doing what we normally do but across the world in allied air space shows the global deterrence factor of being a Cold War era aircraft. The buffs have been around a long time -- we still got it. We're still doing what we've been doing for over 50 years."

Dellenbach said he believes the JTACs received good training on how a B-52 operates compared to the fighters they are used to working with; Minot aircrew members also received great training by conducting close air support with allies who have never worked with a bomber.

Although some crews participated in Saber Strike in the previous years, this is the first year Dellenbach's flight crew has demonstrated the B-52's capabilities to European allies and partners in Saber Strike 15 and shared in the interoperability of the training opportunities in this exercise.

"My crew is a stacked crew. All are pretty experienced aircrew members, and this wasn't anyone's first exercise," Dellenbach said. "It's our first Saber Strike exercise but not our first high visibility exercise or higher headquarter directed mission. It was great to have an experienced crew to employ our weapons systems and know the mission was going to get done."

Using the iconic B-52 in a global power sortie where we can say "hey, we can strike any target, anywhere, especially from a forward deployed location like Fairford, and hold any target, country or place at risk and let them know we're here," shows the B-52's  power in the assurance and deterrence factor, he said.

The deployment to Royal Air Force Fairford was specifically designed and closely coordinated with the United Kingdom and the United States' regional allies and partners to ensure maximum opportunities to synchronize and integrate bomber capabilities with their military assets; strengthening and improving interoperability, as both organizations work toward mutual goals.

In line with integrating bomber capabilities, two B-2 Spirits were refueled by Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, crew chiefs during a hot-pit refueling, further demonstrating the global reach abilities of U.S. Strategic Command assets. 

"Flying the B-2 here solidifies the alliance we have with several of our allies, the commitment we provide, and the power we demonstrate, which we were able to showcase on this platform with refueling the aircraft in minimal time," said Chief Master Sgt. Craig Smith, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron low observable superintendent.

"Team Whiteman came to Fairford to provide that strategic deterrence, global power and combat support to Combatant Commands," Smith said. "The crews that are out here were able to get the B-2 refueled in minimal time and send it on its way. The teams here and any team Whiteman member always have a positive attitude, and they knocked it out of the park with prepping the area and hooking up the jets in minimal time."

Tech. Sgt. Justin Petree, 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, said not only is there an active duty presence, but the Air National Guard has a presence at RAF Fairford in conducting the mission and coordinating the B-2 Spirit platform in Europe to help support the mission.

The 131st Bomb Wing, an Air National Guard unit from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, played the lead role in planning the B-2 portion of the deployment, helping their fellow active-duty Airmen showcase the B-2 Spirit's diverse capabilities within the European area of operations.

Bomber operations provide a credible, flexible and ready capability to respond to a variety of potential threats and situations. These missions support USSTRATCOM's global operations and are conducted in coordination with Geographic Combatant Commands, military services and agencies to deter strategic attacks against the U.S. and its allies and partners.