NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Gliding through the air like a phantom in the night, the B-2 Spirit evades enemy air defenses, finds its target, then unleashes its firepower only to slip away from the enemy as quietly as it came.
During the years, Red Flag exercises have progressed from dog fight air-to-air combat training into complete combat integration involving all aspects of air warfare. Air-to-ground attacks are a vital part of an air campaign, and the 13th Bomb Squadron brings the B-2, a vital asset, to that fight.
The B-2, and its unique characteristics, helps ensure the U.S. and its allies maintain control of the airspace.
“The B-2 can bring a global strike capability at any time,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Schreiner, 13th BS commander.
“The B-2 is a high altitude dominant force capable of taking out any high value target while evading enemy radar,” said Master Sgt. David Rohde, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent.
The B-2 is a low observable aircraft, meaning it can evade enemy air and ground defenses, release its munitions on target, and return home all with-it being detected.
“It is a dual-role bomber, meaning it can carry both conventional and nuclear munitions. During Red Flag exercises, we’re using [conventional] ordinance,” Schreiner said.
The 13th BS was established in 1917 and has fought in every major conflict the U.S. has been involved in since. The stealth abilities and level of firepower the B-2 has is just the latest in a long line of bomber aircraft and weaponry used by the squadron.
During Red Flag 14-1, the B-2 has participated in exercises alongside more than 125 other aircraft including the F-22 Raptor, F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotanker, and aircraft from Great Britain and Australia. The B-2 was incorporated into mission packages to take out ground targets presenting a threat to other aircraft that don’t have the same stealth characteristics. Once the high-value ground targets were neutralized, the other aircraft were able to conduct their missions.
Getting the B-2s to Nellis AFB was a large operation. The 13th BS brought more than 100 military members from Whiteman AFB, Mo, to include maintainers, operators and defenders from the 509th Security Forces Squadron. All of these people are essential for the B-2 to effectively participate in Red Flag.
The 13th BS brought its own security forces for several reasons. One reason is the B-2 requires around-the-clock armed guard because it is such a valuable asset, and the squadron did not want to lean too heavily on security forces from the 99th SFS. The second reason was Whiteman AFB security forces understand the unique circumstances of guarding the aircraft.
In addition to bringing invaluable assets to Red Flag, the 13th BS also benefited from the exercise.
“Red Flag is a good stepping stone and training environment for real world operations” said Rohde, who has participated in six Red Flag exercises.
“Any time you’re away from home it will put on added stress” Schreiner said.
The combined stress of being away from home and training in a fast paced environment ensures the squadron was that much more combat ready and efficient when the time comes for real world operations.
“We are known as ‘The Devil’s own grim reapers,’” Schreiner said.
The ability to strike any target, any time, at any location with extreme lethality justifies this saying. That lethal efficiency is only possible through the men and women who pilot, maintain, and defend the Spirit.