JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii —
Three U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses returned to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, Dec. 21, 2016, after executing 15 sorties near Australia and in the South China Sea in conjunction with forces from U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command and Australia in support of U.S. Strategic Command’s bomber assurance and deterrence mission.
During the Dec. 3 to 18 deployment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific, the B-52s integrated with B-1B Lancers assigned to U.S. PACOM’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for joint and combined operations.
"These strategic bomber missions, especially when integrated, provide unparalleled training opportunities for our forces to work together in a joint environment, strengthening our capabilities and ensuring our ability to prepare for contingencies and rapidly respond to crises," said Brig. Gen. Dirk D. Smith, Pacific Air Forces Director of Air and Cyberspace Operations. "This deployment also allowed for greater collaboration between the U.S. and Australia, where we exercised and improved our combined combat capabilities."
Also during this deployment, the B-52’s joined other U.S. forces and Australian military partners to conduct exercise Phoenix Black, offering coalition training opportunities and enhancing interoperability.
“U.S. and Australian military partnerships are critical to the peace and stability of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” said Maj. Patrick Applegate, Pacific Air Forces bomber operations deputy chief. “As key allies, these exercises provide us with a unique opportunity to work together in a training environment before we work together operationally.”
Forces who participated include the B-52Hs, B-1Bs, F-15C Eagles, KC-135 Stratotankers, C-5 Galaxies, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, E-3 Sentry, RC-135 Rivet Joints as well as U.S. Army and Marine Corps ground parties with attached Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, and Royal Australian Air Force’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and JTACs, encompassing more than 70 sorties.
Not only did this deployment provide the B-52s opportunities to work with allies and familiarize aircrew with airbases and operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, but it also enabled crews to maintain a high state of readiness and proficiency through joint training.
After military exercises with the Australians, the B-52s teamed up with other U.S. forces to conduct joint operations in the South China Sea.
“U.S. forces conduct routine training operations within the international air and maritime passages in the South China Sea,” said Maj. Ryan Simpson, Pacific Air Forces bomber operations chief. “Our joint and Pacific partners recognize the importance this area serves as the global commons which connects the Pacific and Indian Oceans. These operations create unique opportunities for our partners in the Pacific to integrate with a joint force of bombers, tankers and other assets within the theater.”
The routine small force training sortie included a B-52H, two B-1Bs, four F-15Cs and the USS Mustin, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer currently assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet. Seven tanker aircraft operating from several forward operating locations supported the mission.
“This operation showcased the U.S. Air Force’s unparalleled combat capability and precision,” said Capt. Chandler Anderson, 34th Bomb Squadron assistant flight commander and airborne mission commander. “From a B-1 pilot’s perspective, we mission planned simulated standoff weapons, were the overall airborne mission lead, and coordinated with all the other assets using only a rapidly deployable expeditionary communication suite planning environment on the flightline, thousands of miles away from our counterparts. We truly validated the B-1s ability to operate outside of Andersen AFB. Our participation, along with the B-52s, F-15Cs, RC-135, and USS Mustin, enabled us to practice tactics in the South China Sea that offered many valuable lessons learned that will make us even more lethal in combat.”
These joint engagements as well as operations with our Australian ally are representative of the shared commitment to global security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.