Three U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range bombers completed a deployment to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, conducting several joint and bilateral training missions in the Indo-Pacific from June 14-21.
Launching from Eielson AFB, the deployed B-52s conducted Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions as far north as the East Siberian Sea and as far south as the Sea of Japan. The bombers belonged to the USAF’s 96th Bomb Squadron, 2nd Bomb Wing based at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
The bombers’ first mission involved intercept training with F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 Hornet jets over the Beaufort Sea June 13-14 in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)’s mission to safeguard the sovereign airspace of the United States and Canada.
“Strategic bomber missions support our nation’s National Defense Strategy,” said Lt. Gen. David A. Krumm, commander of Alaskan NORAD Region, Alaskan Command, and Eleventh Air Force. “Our air forces remain agile and operationally unpredictable as we continuously project combat air power across the vast Eleventh Air Force area of responsibility that includes Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.”
On June 17 and June 19, two of the bombers conducted bilateral training with the Koku-Jieitai, or Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), in the vicinity of Japan. They also integrated in the Sea of Okhotsk with U.S. Navy E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft from Electronic Attack Squadron 209 (VAQ-209), the “Star Warriors”, who were deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan in support of forward presence and stability operations.
“Joining the B-52s on their missions required precision timing, integrated joint mission planning, and the fusing of multiple command and control measures,” said U.S. Navy CDR Peter Scheu, Electronic Attack Squadron 209 public affairs officer. “As the U.S. military’s only reserve electronic attack squadron, the depth of experience VAQ-209 brought to the exercise was instrumental in the successful completion of multiple events. The ability to coordinate and execute these events is important to joint power projection on a global scale, including ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Between the deployed 2nd Bomb Wing and the hosting 354th Fighter Wing, hundreds of dedicated personnel including maintainers, logistics specialists, and support staff on the ground at Eielson AFB worked to ensure the success of the deployment, facilitate joint training opportunities, and promote the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific.
“From a deployed tasking perspective, I am proud of the way our team came together to incorporate the Expeditionary Bomb Squadron into our organization and support their mission,” said Col. Chad BonDurant, 354th Mission Support Group commander. “We learned some valuable lessons in what it takes to support our deployed teammates, and we’ll take advantage of this opportunity to get better. Missions like these validate our significance as an arctic power projection platform, and it is paramount that we build our support capacity because this is the future of Eielson Air Force Base.”
The B-52s redeployed on June 21 after completing a final training mission near Japan. The last time B-52s deployed to Eielson AFB was July through August of 2017 in support of Red Flag-Alaska 17-3.
According to a Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) statement, the deployment “demonstrated Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC)’s ability to deliver lethal, ready, long-range strike options to Geographic Combatant Commanders anytime, anywhere”. The statement added that “these missions also demonstrate our commitment to Allies and Partners and the ability to operate in a diverse and uncertain security environment”.