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B1-B bombers return to European Theater

Two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, flew from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for a 10-hour mission, flying in the vicinity of Kyushu, Japan, the East China Sea, and the Korean peninsula, Aug. 7, 2017 (HST). (U.S. Air Force/Released)
May 18, 2020

B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth conducted a second long-range strategic Bomber Task Force mission in the European Theater last week that included key interactions with U.S. assets as well as Danish and Polish forces.

The nearly 24-hour, non-stop mission covered over 9,400 nautical miles and included integration and interoperability training with Danish F-16s overflying Bornholm Island, Denmark, and Polish F-16s and MiG-29s teaming up to overfly Warsaw, Poland, as well as overflights of Latvia and Lithuania.

“Bomber Task Force operations like this provide tremendous opportunities for our B-1 aircrew to work and train with our allies and partners to enable seamless operations,” said Col. David Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This mission is a testament to the long range strike capability of our nation’s bomber fleet regardless of conditions or basing location.”

A KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, England, provided key air refueling support that ensured Ellsworth successfully accomplished the mission.

This is the fourth time in just over four weeks that B-1 aircrews from South Dakota conducted long duration sorties that included operations in the Pacific and European theaters.

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Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, officials noted that missions like this reaffirm America is committed to its mission in all domains (air, sea, land, space, cyber), and to the readiness of our allies and partners.

“The health of our team has been a top priority from the start of our COVID response and is key to sustaining missions like the Bomber Task Force,” said U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander, Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian. “Although mitigation efforts created challenges to overcome, our allies, partners and adversaries should make no mistake that we are ready, able and willing to deter and defend when called upon.”

Col. Chad Heyen, 28th Maintenance Group commander, noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for base aircraft maintainers, they have adjusted their operations and remain very capable of accomplishing their mission.

“Raider maintainers are some of the best maintainers the Air Force has to offer,” Heyen remarked. “No matter how bad the weather conditions are, whether it is day or night, or where the B-1 needs to go, Raider maintainers will move heaven and earth to ensure mission success.”

He added that B-1 maintainers are more “strategic-minded” than many of their counterparts on other airframes because they understand the powerful message of having a B-1 overhead. “It lets our allies know we will be there if they need us, and lets our enemies know we can hold any target at risk — anytime, anywhere,” he added. “Raider maintainers make that happen. I could not be more proud of them and the work they do.”

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© 2020 Rapid City Journal