NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEV. — Soaring high through the atmosphere, the B-52 Stratofortress seeks and destroys its target on the ground miles below. The 96th Bomb Squadron brings the Stratofortress and its lethality to Red Flag.
The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber capable of dropping or launching a wide variety of munitions on any target anywhere in the world. “The B-52 is a global strike weapon,” said Capt. Kasey Newcomer, 96th BS electronic warfare officer.
“[The B-52] can outlast anybody because of the fuel capacity,” said Capt. Timothy Humpal, 343rd Bomb Squadron radar navigator.
Humpal is a Reservist in the 343 BS, which is integrated into the 96 BS. With a range exceeding 10,000 miles and traveling at high subsonic speeds of up to 650 miles per hour, the B-52 can launch a mission in one location, and destroy a target on the other side of the planet.
In addition to being able to get to any target in the world, the B-52 has a wide array of weapons at its disposal to dispose of the enemy. The B-52 is capable of delivering approximately 70,000 pounds of munitions.
Two of the unique weapons the Stratofortress uses are the Air Launched Cruise Missile and the Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile. “[The CALCM] is launched in mid-air and capable of hitting a target far away and we can carry 20 of them,” Newcomer said.
The B-52 was developed in the 1950s and has been one of the many reliable tools the 96th BS has had in its inventory throughout its long history.
“The squadron was formed in 1918 and the B-52 is one of many aircraft the squadron has had. The [aircraft] we’re flying were built in ‘60 and ‘61 so they’re more than 50 years old. The B-52 has been involved in pretty much every conflict since Vietnam. [The Squadron motto is] ‘First to Bomb’,” Newcomer said.
In addition to bringing an asset to Red Flag, the 96th BS also gained valuable training experience through the combat exercises, which will in turn increase the squadron’s operational readiness.
“We’ll bring back to our squadron and our bomb wing and the B-52 community in general advanced tactics integrating with air-to-air players, as well as air-to-ground,” Newcomer said. “It’ll help us prepare for future missions, it’s the most realistic training you can get without going to combat.”
The actual combat training missions are only part of Red Flag developing the squadron’s readiness. The operational tempo also helps to hone the maintainers’ skills.
“Being away from home base adds to our expeditionary capabilities, specifically for the maintainers. They’re able to practice generating aircraft from a foreign location, a different base. They’re not going to have all their tools with them, they’re going to have to improvise and make it happen as if we’re forward deployed,” Newcomer said.
Red Flag allows the 96th BS to continue to develop and hone their tactics so that the Stratofortress and its unique deterrence capabilities remain an asset to the Red Flag exercises and air warfare in general.