EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Three B-1 Lancers operated by Airmen of the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas arrived at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, after conducting an initial sortie in the European theater Sept. 10 in support of a Bomber Task Force mission.
The bombers flew non-stop for nearly 14 hours and conducted training in international airspace over the East Siberian Sea near Wrangel Island and the New Siberian Islands. The remaining BTF flights for the unit are scheduled to operate in the Pacific and European theaters to demonstrate U.S. commitment to peace and stability in those regions.
“These BTF missions demonstrate our persistence, agility, and efficiency, all while remaining operationally unpredictable,” said Col. Christopher Hawn, 345th EBS commander. “It sends the message that we are always watching, always ready, and relentless in our commitment to the mission.”
Though the strategic deterrence missions have occurred regularly since 2018, this BTF mission is the first multi-theater effort of its kind to be tasked to and led by Reserve Citizen Airmen, said Hawn.
The 345th EBS is a Total Force Integration effort comprised of Reserve Citizen Airman from the 489th Bomb Group and active-duty Airmen of the 7th Bomb Wing stationed at Dyess AFB. The 489th BG is a geographically separated unit of the 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana.
Hawn explained that the TFI model used by the unit at Dyess AFB allowed it to respond in less than 40 days from initial mission tasking until commencement of the BTF. That turnaround was accomplished despite the short preparation time frame, the requirement to operate across theaters, and the precautions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This type of mission is tailor-made for us; it is in our DNA,” said Hawn. “The continuity, experience, and perspective brought forth by our Airmen allows us to extract efficiencies and overcome complexity.”
Chief Master Sgt. Noel Price, 489th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, said unit maintainers were eager to take on the BTF mission, despite the challenges it presented.
“This is huge for us,” said Price. “When the call came down, we had instant volunteers because they are hungry to prove what they bring to the fight.”
The B-1 Lancer possesses long-range characteristics that allow it to operate globally from a variety of locations. That capacity, coupled with its ability to fly at speeds up to 900 mph, provides the strategic unpredictability and operational resilience necessary for the mission.
Price acknowledged keeping the bomber maintained at peak performance will be critical with the personnel available, but said the nature of the TFI package lends itself to such situations.
“This is what we train for at home station,” he said. “We are built for this type of lean, agile mission.”
In addition to providing assurance to European allies and partners and providing strategic deterrence, the BTF mission will allow aircrews to gain familiarity operating in different theaters. 345th EBS aircrews are also scheduled to train with other NATO forces to enhance interoperability.