Two B-1B Lancer aircrews flew a 30-hour, non-stop, long-range precision strike training mission from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., to strike targets on a range near Guam before landing back on base as part of a Global Power training mission, May 13 and 14.
Working in concert with U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Pacific Command and Air Combat Command, the sortie tested the capabilities of Ellsworth’s Airmen to successfully load munitions, launch aircraft, effectively employ training munitions and return home.
“This was a tremendous effort from across the wing – accomplishing a training mission of this scope is a team endeavor,” said Col. Kevin Kennedy, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “The success our aviators have had in Operations Enduring Freedom and Odyssey Dawn does not happen by accident and our success on this mission demonstrates the extended lethality of not only the B-1, but our nation’s entire bomber fleet – as well as the importance of air refueling to expand our global reach.”
Kennedy specifically lauded the tremendous support provided by the refueling assets that made the mission possible, adding that without them the mission would not have been possible.
Capt. Christopher McConnell, 28th Operations Support Squadron wing weapons officer and B-1 pilot, said training missions like this help demonstrate the B-1’s long-range strike capability. He said launching aircraft from the continental U.S., flying to a region employing weapons – inert munitions in this case – and then returning home are all part of the base’s mission of providing expeditionary combat power, anywhere on the globe.
McConnell noted the task often presents challenges to aircrew members, but few may be as critical as fatigue, compounded by the more demanding stages occurring mid-flight with the tactical portion of striking a target.
“Once you are 17 hours into the sortie that’s when … everyone needs to perform at their highest capabilities,” said Capt. Chad Nishizuka, 34th Bomb Squadron B-1 pilot and flight lead for the Global Power mission.
The long flight across several time zones and approximately 13,200 miles proved the combat capabilities of one of the Air Force’s premier long-range bombers – according to all those involved in planning, preparing for and orchestrating the mission – and helps prepare aircrews for the physical effects of such a demanding flight.
This was not the first time Ellsworth has conducted such a long-range round trip mission as part of training or combat operations.
March 27, 2011, Ellsworth accomplished an amazing feat when they generated bombers in severe winter weather conditions and flew from the South Dakota base non-stop to strike targets in Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn, a testament to the base’s ability to accomplish this vital mission.
B-1 aviators have been conducting long-range missions since 1998 when B-1 aircrews employed the bomber in combat for the first time as part of Operation Desert Fox. Today, B-1 aviators provide critical support for combatant commanders in Southwest Asia.
The shift to the Pacific theater is different from daily operations at home, but every one of Ellsworth’s Airmen – maintainers, defenders, engineers, medical personnel, logistics personnel and more – understand training missions like this are critical to maintaining readiness and preparing for the future.
“Everybody had the capability… it proves how strong our squadron is and how strong Ellsworth is,” Nishizuka said. “I am very proud of this mission and [to] be able to lead it.”