The U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers returned to the Indo-Pacific region on May 1 to conduct bomber task force (BTF) operations out of Andersen Air Base, Guam.
Four bombers and approximately 200 Airmen from the 9th Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, were deployed to support Pacific Air Forces’ (PACAF) training efforts with allies, partners and joint forces; and strategic deterrence missions to reinforce the rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific region.
Three B-1Bs flew to Andersen AFB while one split off and flew down east of Japan to conduct training with U.S. Navy assets operating in the region before heading to Anderson AFB.
“Deployments like this allow our Airmen to enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe,” said Col. Ed. Sumangil, 7th BW commander. “It also provides a valuable opportunity to better integrate with our allies and partners through joint and combined operations and exercises.”
In line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability and operational unpredictability, the Bomber Task Force enables a mix of different types of strategic bombers to operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broader array of overseas and Continental U.S. locations with greater operational resilience.
“The B-1 provides all of the training opportunities which the B-52 [Stratofortress] provided, plus the ability to train to advanced stand-off, anti-surface warfare with [Long Range Anti-Surface Missiles],” said Lt. Col. Frank, Welton, PACAF’s chief of operations force management.
The B-1 can carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the U.S. Air Force.
“The B-1 is able to carry a larger payload of Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles and a larger payload of 2,000-pound class Joint Direct Attack Munitions,” Welton said. “Additionally, the B-1 is able to carry the LRASM, giving it an advanced stand-off, counter-ship capability. It also has an advanced self-protection suite and is able to transit at supersonic speeds to enhance offensive and defensive capabilities.”
The last time the B-1s were deployed to the region was in 2017. Bombers from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron supported missions from Andersen AFB, conducting multiple sequenced bilateral missions with the Republic of Korea Air Force and the Japan Air Self Defense Force.
“Our wing has conducted, and participated in, a variety of exercises over the last year to ensure we are primed for large-scale missions such as this one,” said Sumangil. “We’re excited to be back in Guam and proud to continue to be part of the ready bomber force prepared to defend America and its allies against any threat.”
The last BTF deployed to the Pacific was in January 2019 when three B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and approximately 200 Airmen from the 393rd Bomb Squadron from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, deployed to Hawaii. The squadron conducted 37 sorties for a total of 171 hours. Eight of the missions were integration operations with F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron, 154th Wing, Hawaii Air National Guard.
BTF deployments to the INDOPACOM theater aren’t the only way Air Force Global Strike Command supports combatant commands’ objectives. AFGSC also conducts long-range missions from the continental United States.
A CONUS to CONUS BTF was executed Feb. 3 when two B-52s Stratofortress bombers conducted bilateral training near Misawa Air Base, Japan, with 13 JASDF F-2s, four F-4s and 28 F-15s; and six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa AB.
Two other CONUS to CONUS BTF missions occurred April 22 and April 29 involving B-1B Lancers from the 37th Bomb Squadron, 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. The B-1s from the April 22 mission integrated with six U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th FW, and seven JASDF F-2s and eight JASDF F-15s over Draughon Range near Misawa for bilateral and theater familiarization training. The two B-1Bs on the April 29 mission conducted theater familiarization in the South China Sea in a demonstration of PACAF’s commitment to fly, sail and operate where ever international law allows.
USSTRATCOM has conducted BTF missions since 2014, formerly known as Bomber Assurance and Deterrence mission until 2017.