Our August issue, out now, is our special US Air Force 70th anniversary tribute issue.
The cover story for the issue is all about the mighty B-1B Lancer. Last year, the US Air Force marked a significant moment for the B-1B Lancer as the 28th Bomb Wing from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, deployed to operate under the 36th Wing at Andersen AFB, Guam, on August 6, replacing B-52Hs from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota. The arrival of the Lancers marked the first time the bombers had deployed in support of US Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) mission, since April 2006.
For the B-1 community, the Guam commitment signaled a step change in the way it has been conducting combat operations in recent years — a move back to the strategic mission. Lt Col Nick Yates is leading the second B-1 Guam deployment under this new initiative, as commander of the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron (EBS). Operating in the Pacific theater has far reaching regional implications. ‘From being locked into the tactical [Close Air Support — CAS] mission set in the CENTCOM region, we are now part of a role that has significant strategic implications and one that marks a very different perspective for us.’ He says that the recent focus on CAS for the B-1 in CENTCOM may have yielded an immediate return in terms of kinetic strikes and feedback, however he says of the Guam mission: ‘this is the bigger picture with huge implications and a very high state of readiness.’
The 9th EBS, part of the 7th Bomb Wing from Dyess AFB, Texas, deployed to Andersen on February 6 for the second rotational deployment here for the B-1 community. The squadron deployed en masse with its own aircraft and personnel, to be hosted by the resident 36th Wing. ‘The missions here are very different to those that we fly in the States,’ explains Lt Col Yates. ‘Here we are able to participate in many exercises, not only with our foreign [regional] allies, but also with the US Navy and the Marine Corps.’
Guam sits remotely in the western Pacific, with Japan, South Korea and Australia all within easy range for the B-1. It means that working with these key neighbors is a regular occurrence for the B-1 crews. ‘We are able to reach places that we wouldn’t normally touch from either the Continental US or from our CENTCOM base that we’ve flown from over the past decade. So it’s a very different situation here, and we can execute a lot of our missions that we cannot easily achieve back home in Texas, such as the maritime role.’ The maritime mission for the B-1 is something that Yates describes as ‘an important mission set for us,’ and sees the B-1s simulating use of the new AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air-to-Surface Stand-off Missile) amongst others.
‘We have been here just short of three months,’ Yates said, speaking to Combat Aircraft in May. ‘We are deployed as a fully-capable squadron,’ he continues. ‘We always have some guys that don’t make it out on deployment for various reasons, but essentially we are all here.’ The Al Udeid deployments regularly involved a mix and match of jets being deployed — here it’s all Dyess ‘Bones’.
To read the full feature, including incredible photos from Jim Haseltine, see the August issue of Combat Aircraft, out now: http://shop.keypublishing.com/issue/View/issue/CAM1808