RAF FAIRFORD, England --- Two B-1B Lancers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, took part in missions supporting Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) June 4, 2018.
The supersonic and Cold War-era B-1s conducted missions with inert Quickstrike Mark 62 mines, providing U.S. and coalition military forces the opportunity to train for the laying and recovering of mines. These inert mines are recoverable and reusable.
“Dropping naval mines gives the B-1 a lot of operational capability to complete the aircraft’s mission,” said “Hojo,” a B-1 pilot, assigned to the 345th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron. “It can quickly deliver large quantities of precision and non-precision weapons against any adversary, anywhere in the world, at any time.”
BALTOPS, which began in 1972, is an annual joint, multinational, maritime-focused exercise. It is designed to improve training value for participants, enhance flexibility and interoperability, and demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region. The exercise will involve maritime, ground and air forces to strengthen combined response capabilities necessary to ensure regional stability.
Training focus areas include air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, maritime interdiction, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations.
“We train how we fight,” said Hojo. “There is a lot of behind the scenes to working with mines, from building the munitions to dropping them on a designated target; you want to make sure that when you are called upon for a mission, that you can successfully complete the task the first time, when it counts.”
The inclusion of bombers in this exercise has been long-planned and provides an opportunity for bomber crews to integrate and train with other U.S. European Command components, while exercising the United States’ key bomber capabilities. These flights demonstrate the ability of the U.S. bomber force to provide a credible, flexible, and always-ready capability to respond to a variety of potential threats and situations, when called to do so.
These bombers will perform sorties in the Baltic Sea Region, providing support to NATO and partner forces. The exercise will enable the B-1 and its crews to enhance their combat readiness, so collectively NATO can immediately respond to a range of real-world situations. Training with allied nations and joint partners improves coordination between nations and enables the Air Force to build enduring relationships necessary to confront a broad range of global challenges.
The exercise enhances flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations to strengthen combined response capabilities, as well as demonstrate international resolve to ensure stability in, and if necessary defend, the Baltic Sea Region.
“We are here to reassure our NATO partners and allies that we have their back,” said Hojo. “The interoperability is a huge piece to our part in the exercise, but this is a great opportunity for our unit and everyone involved to do something they have never done before whether at home or in theater."