Two B-2 Spirits flew to the U.S. European Command area of operations June 8 to train and integrate with U.S. and allied military forces in the region.
During this short-term deployment, the multi-role heavy bombers will conduct training flights in the USEUCOM area of operations, providing opportunities for aircrews to sharpen skills in several key operational sets and become familiar with airbases and operations in the region.
“This deployment of strategic bombers provides an invaluable opportunity to strengthen and improve interoperability with our allies and partners,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command. “The training and integration of strategic forces demonstrates to our nation’s leaders and our allies that we have the right mix of aircraft and expertise to respond to a variety of potential threats and situations.”
USSTRATCOM routinely conducts training missions in support of geographic combatant commands to ensure the U.S. has a credible and flexible capability to provide the president a variety of options he may need to protect the nation or its allies and partners.
The forward-deployed B-2s are assigned to 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. Its low-observable, or “stealth,” characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.
UK pilot enhances interoperability with AF
When the B-2 Spirit arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford, England, for training June 8, a Royal Air Force pilot was part of an elite exchange program between the two allies.
This exchange program is a tangible representation of the special relationship the U.S. and U.K. have enjoyed for many years.
Flt. Lt. Ian Hart has been training with the 13th Bomb Squadron at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., since 2012, and is a fully mission-qualified B-2 instructor pilot in the.
“In the U.K., we’re lucky enough to have exchanges all over the world with our allies,” Hart said. “We have more with the U.S. than anyone else because they’re a very close ally.”
The U.S. and U.K. have fought and trained side-by-side since World War I. One way to strengthen partnerships among the two nations is with interoperability training between warfighters. Using exchange programs the two nations accomplish operational training in a variety of mission specialties including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tankers, bombers, fighters and helicopters.
“It’s about building an understanding,” Hart said. “We’re improving relations, interoperability and understanding with how closely we work together.”
Hart is the fourth RAF pilot to to fly the B-2, and recently his training brought him back to RAF Fairford.
“It’s lovely to get back and see the local area,” Hart said. “Fairford is a lovely place and things feel more familiar to me, like driving on the ‘correct side’ of the road, among other things.”
Hart flew the RAF GR4 Tornado for more than 10 years before he trained in the B-2. He has enjoyed experiencing the differences between the two types of aircraft, as well as the difference between the U.S. military and the RAF operational procedures, particularly in the area of air traffic control.
“I’ve got a head start on the other pilots in the U.K. because I understand the structure and the air traffic control procedures,” Hart said. “In the U.S., rules are much more aligned through the Federal Aviation Administration and the way their airspace is structured.”
Hart remarked that this program has allowed him to grow in many ways.
“Seeing different structures and rules have really helped me develop professionally both as an officer and a pilot,” Hart said. “It’s given me ideas I will bring home on how we can improve systems ourselves.”
Hart believes having a common understanding of flight operations between the Air Force and RAF will in turn make integration even more seamless.
The methods of training are different between the two nations, though the intent is the same, he said.
“The way rules are written on how pilots must land, perform air refuels, and other various tasks to maintain mission readiness are different,” Hart said.
Nevertheless, Hart noted the outcome is still to provide professional, highly trained pilots.
“Professionalism and pride are right at the top of the similarities that we both have,” Hart said. “The core of what we do remains the same throughout. We both have that to succeed, and that drive to do better, learn and teach other people.”
If Hart was called today to fight alongside the U.S., he would be ready, he said.
“We maintain that combat currency,” Hart said. “Part of what we’re doing here is to keep that mission training going to see how we would operate in a different airspace. I maintain my combat currencies just like every other pilot on the B-2. I have to hit the same standards and requirements to ensure that we are ready to go.”