The 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron recently integrated with the 340th Weapons Squadron, 69th Bomb Squadron, and 23rd Bomb Squadron during the B-52 Test and Weapons School Roadshow at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., July 5-8, 2022.
The 49th TES is based at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and falls under the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Fla. The 340th Weapons Squadron is located at Barksdale, but falls under the auspices of the 57th Wing at Nellis AFB, Nev.
The 69th and 23rd Bomb Squadrons fall under the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB.
Four sorties were executed during the event to validate Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures developed by the TES and WPS through close collaboration, integrated flight test, and detailed post-mission analysis.
“Aircrew can read Tactics and Flash Bulletins, but there is no better way to teach new tactics than hands-on interactive instruction from the tactics developers themselves,” said Maj. Brent Drabek, 49th TES B-52 OT pilot.
Operational Test and Weapons squadrons developing TTPs for the Combat Air Force and B-52 communities is nothing new, but their integration has traditionally occurred on the ground meshing separate works into written products and guidance. Integrating in flight with a mixed crew allowed the 69th and 23rd BS to get an early look at future software and the opportunity to provide inputs and recommendations to the 49th TES, who will continue to test and optimize the systems prior to fielding.
The WPS instructors involved were also qualified OT Aircrew, therefore the 340th WPS was able to fly with the same test software as the 49th TES. This enables the instructors who participated in the Minot Roadshow to pass their hands-on-knowledge of new programs and tactics to the current class of Weapons Instructor Course students back at Barksdale AFB, who in-turn will deliver that knowledge to the units they serve in as tier one patches, training the future crew force.
“We see this a win-win-win for OT, WPS, and the Warfighter,” said Drabek. “We in OT can leverage the community’s top instructors to experiment on new tactics relevant to OT. This allows the WPS to be directly involved in the latest programs coming to the platform, ultimately keeping their curriculum relevant and producing patch wearers with experience and advanced knowledge of the new programs.”
Following the roadshow in Minot, the 49th TES and 340th WPS plan to continue monthly formation flying at Barksdale AFB, building on a test point list that the 340th WPS plan to implement throughout their student syllabus. The new 22B WIC class will also develop Weapons School papers on emerging standoff weapons tactics and how to employ next-generation B-52 software.
The Weapons Squadron has two main lines of effort in this collaborative event according to Lt. Col. T.J. May, 340th WPS commander. The first is to continue working hand-in-hand with the 49th for tactics development, experimentation, and preparation of the community through adjustments to existing TTPs. The second is to carefully review and revise the B-52 WIC syllabus to ensure the curriculum remains relevant and the squadron can maintain a posture that enables them to absorb new capabilities without delay.
“The B-52 has crossed the Rubicon in terms of modernization; we expect continuous changes to our weapons system for the next decade,” said May. “The magnitude of this effort demands detailed integration within the Warfare Center to ensure our aircrews have the skills necessary to deliver combat power without delay.”
Events like this roadshow not only allow additional Tactics Development & Evaluation trials, but enable more holistic and operationally relevant trials, ultimately producing a better product to equip the warfighter.
“This type of integration is undoubtedly what we need for the sake of efficiency moving forward, not just in the bomber community but for all test platforms.” said Lt. Col. Matt Spinelli, 49th TES commander.