Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers joined B-1B Lancers and B-52H Stratofortresses June 9, 2017, to participate in theater bomber assurance and deterrence operations.
Three B-52Hs Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base (AFB), Louisiana, and three B-1Bs Lancers from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, along with approximately 800 Airmen, are currently supporting exercises Saber Strike and Baltic Operations in the U.S. European Theater.
While not actively participating in ongoing regional exercises, the B-2s Spirit join the other Air Force Global Strike Command assets in support of recurring bomber assurance and deterrence operations. Bomber deployments enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any contingency or challenge across the globe.
«The bomber assurance and deterrence missions these three aircraft are supporting are key to reinforcing our commitment to our allies in NATO – in a very visible, very tangible way – that we stand shoulder to shoulder with them, no matter what», said Colonel Jared Kennish, the 322nd Air Expeditionary Group commander.
U.S. Strategic Command routinely conducts bomber operations across the globe as a demonstration of commitment to collective defense and to integrate with geographic combatant commands operations and activities. This is the first time that all three bomber platforms have been located together in the European theater, and only the second time total in Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) history; the first was in Guam in August 2016.
«This short-term deployment demonstrates the flexible global strike capabilities of the U.S. bomber force, and ensures bomber crews maintain a high state of readiness», said Kennish. «The training will provide opportunities to integrate capabilities with regional partners, and is part of the United States’ commitment to supporting global security».
A number of total force Airmen from Whiteman AFB, Missouri, are supporting the B-2 Spirit operation. Many, including Kennish, are members of the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing. The Guard wing has cleared a number of operational performance evaluations and readiness assessments to obtain full operational capability to perform the strategic bomber mission of the B-2 Spirit alongside the active duty 509th Bomb Wing, at home and at Royal Air Force Fairford.
Members of the 131st BW have been a part of every previous bomber assurance and deterrence operation; however, this is the first time that the operations of all three strategic bombers has been led by a guardsman, further signaling the full arrival of the total force construct in AFGSC.
«There may have been a time early in our transition when people wondered if our two wings could make (total force integration) work in the B-2 Spirit operations, maintenance and support missions, but we’ve long since proved the concept at Whiteman (AFB)», said Kennish. «Operations like the ones we’re supporting this month just put an exclamation point on our record of total force team success».
|Primary function||Multi-role heavy bomber|
|Contractor||Northrop Grumman Corp.|
|Power Plant||4 General Electric F118-GE-100 engines|
|Thrust||19,000 lbs/8,618 kg/84,5 kN each engine|
|Wingspan||172 feet/52.12 m|
|Length||69 feet/20.9 m|
|Height||17 feet/5.1 m|
|Weight||160,000 lbs/72,575 kg|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW)||336,500 lbs/152,634 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||167,000 lbs/75,750 kg|
|Payload||40,000 lbs/18,144 kg|
|Range||6,000 NM/11,112 km unrefueled; 10,000 NM/18,520 km with one refueling|
|Ceiling||50,000 feet/15,240 m|
|Armament||Can deliver a variety of conventional and nuclear weapons, including precision-guided munitions, and gravity bombs|
|Crew||Two pilots, with provisions for a third crew member if future missions require it|
|Unit cost||Approximately $1.157 billion|
|Initial operating capability||April 1997|
|Inventory||Active force: 20 (1 test)|