Joint U.S. Pacific Command operations in the Pacific
By Mike Hanlon
June 20, 2006
June 21, 2006 This remarkable image must constitute one of the greatest collections of leading edge technology ever assembled in one place and part of an amazing photographic gallery for this story. And the sizeable chunk of war machine is just a fraction of what's being put through its paces on and around Guam this week in Operation Valiant Shield, a U.S. Pacific Command exercise which focuses on integrated joint training and interoperability among U.S. military forces while responding to a range of mission scenarios. The exercise is designed to make sure U.S. forces have a seamlessly integrated environment where they can conduct deterrence-type missions and, if deterrence fails, high-intensity combat operations. The image shows the awesome B-2 Spirit and 16 other aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps flying over the USS Kitty Hawk, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike groups. The joint exercise consists of 28 naval vessels, more than 300 aircraft and approximately 20,000 service members. For the record, the B-2 Spirit is powered by four F-118-GE-100 engines each with 17,300 pounds of thrust which can propel it to high subsonic speeds carrying 40,000 pounds of bombs with an unrefueled intercontinental range and an effectively indefinite range given air-to-air refueling. The B-2 Stealth bomber can reach across the globe to attack more than a dozen different aimpoints with surgical accuracy in a single pass! There are 21 active B-2 Spirits in the US military inventory, each costing US$1.157 billion. Who needs a foreign policy?
"Valiant Shield gives us the opportunity to integrate Air Force global-strike assets with carrier-based seapower in an intense leveraging of firepower," said Maj. Mark Pye, 36th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron director of operations.
As part of the exercise, B-2s are flying consecutive training missions, keeping aircrew members and 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers at a high operations tempo for the majority of the exercise.
"The Valiant Shield exercise has maintainers across Andersen Air Force Base very busy fixing and flying aircraft. The B-2 is no different, flying five straight days supporting exercise sortie requirements," said Capt. James Temple, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. "Exercises are always an exciting time to focus our efforts and surge warfighting capability."
B-2 aircrew members agree the hard work is worth it because of the long-term benefits of training in a joint environment. "It's a rare opportunity to bring together platforms that normally do not regularly exercise together -- Air Force fighters and bombers and Navy carrier strike groups being a good example -- to ensure an integrated U.S. air, sea, land, space and cyberspace force capable of an overwhelming and decisive response in any future contingency," said Lt. Col. Paul Tibbets IV, 393rd EBS commander.
Before Exercise Valiant Shield, B-2s played a role in Exercise Northern Edge. The joint training exercise hosted by Alaskan Command is one of a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises preparing joint forces to respond to crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
"The B-2s were tasked with multiple roles during their mission, which is not uncommon for us," said Maj. Jeff Schreiner, 393rd EBS assistant director of operations. "These included striking multiple dynamic targets, which were received via long-range communications from the Kenney Headquarters Pacific Air Operations Center shortly before entering Alaska, and these targets included simulated surface-to-air missile sites and simulated enemy troop movements."
Exercise Northern Edge required pilots to complete a sortie at a training range approximately 4,500 nautical miles away in Alaska, resulting in a 9,800 nautical-mile round trip lasting more than 24 hours.
The exercise also brought the Air Force's two most advanced weapon systems together, as F-22 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., joined B-2s during training missions on the Yukon Training Range near Eielson AFB, Alaska.
"The B-2s also integrated with F-22s to 'kick down the door' against a simulated enemy integrated air defense anchored by formidable Northern Edge 'enemy' fighters," Major Pye said. "This paved the way for powerful follow-on strike packages to attack enemy maritime and land-based targets at will."
"Northern Edge provided a realistic combat environment to implement tactics critical to future B-2 and F-22 operations," said Capt. William Hepler, 393rd EBS, one of the B-2 pilots on the Northern Edge mission. "It was a great opportunity to integrate the capabilities of the B-2 with those of the F-22 and learn more about each aircraft."
The B-2 aircraft, aircrew members and support personnel, deployed to Andersen AFB from the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB, Mo., provide the U.S. Pacific commander a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The B-2s are scheduled to remain at Andersen AFB until September.
The B-2 Spirit is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. A dramatic leap forward in technology, the bomber represents a major milestone in the U.S. bomber modernization program. The B-2 brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses.
Along with the B-52 and B-1B, the B-2 provides the penetrating flexibility and effectiveness inherent in manned bombers. Its low-observable, or "stealth," characteristics give it the unique ability to penetrate an enemy's most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, and heavily defended, targets. Its capability to penetrate air defenses and threaten effective retaliation provides a strong, effective deterrent and combat force well into the 21st century.
The revolutionary blending of low-observable technologies with high aerodynamic efficiency and large payload gives the B-2 important advantages over existing bombers. Its low-observability provides it greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing its range and a better field of view for the aircraft's sensors. Its unrefueled range is approximately 6,000 nautical miles (9,600 kilometers).
The B-2's low observability is derived from a combination of reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual and radar signatures. These signatures make it difficult for the sophisticated defensive systems to detect, track and engage the B-2. Many aspects of the low-observability process remain classified; however, the B-2's composite materials, special coatings and flying-wing design all contribute to its "stealthiness."
The B-2 has a crew of two pilots, a pilot in the left seat and mission commander in the right, compared to the B-1B's crew of four and the B-52's crew of five.
The first B-2 was publicly displayed on Nov. 22, 1988, when it was rolled out of its hangar at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, Calif. Its first flight was July 17, 1989. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., is responsible for flight testing the engineering, manufacturing and development aircraft on the B-2.
Whiteman AFB, Mo., is the only operational base for the B-2. The first aircraft, Spirit of Missouri, was delivered Dec. 17, 1993. Depot maintenance responsibility for the B-2 is performed by Air Force contractor support and is managed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker AFB, Okla.
The combat effectiveness of the B-2 was proved in Operation Allied Force, where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks, by flying nonstop to Kosovo from its home base in Missouri and back. In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the B-2 flew one of its longest missions to date from Whiteman to Afghanistan and back. The B-2 completed its first-ever combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying 22 sorties from a forward operating location as well as 27 sorties from Whiteman AFB and releasing more than 1.5 million pounds of munitions. The B-2's proven combat performance led to declaration of full operational capability in December 2003.
The prime contractor, responsible for overall B-2 Spirit system design and integration, is Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems Sector. Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc., are key members of the aircraft contractor team.
General Characteristics Primary function: Multi-role heavy bomber Prime Contractor: Northrop Grumman Corp. Contractor Team: Boeing Military Airplanes Co., Hughes Radar Systems Group, General Electric Aircraft Engine Group and Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc. Power Plant: Four General Electric F-118-GE-100 engines Thrust: 17,300 pounds each engine Length: 69 feet (20.9 meters) Height: 17 feet (5.1 meters Wingspan: 172 feet (52.12 meters Speed: High subsonic Ceiling: 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) Takeoff Weight (Typical): 336,500 pounds (152,634 kilograms Range: Intercontinental, unrefueled Armament: Conventional or nuclear weapons Payload: 40,000 pounds (18,144 kilograms) Crew: Two pilots Unit cost: Approximately $1.157 billion (fiscal 98 constant dollars) Date Deployed: December 1993 Inventory: Active force: 21 (1 test); ANG: 0; Reserve: 0