ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --- After more than 140 sorties and 330 released weapons, B-2 Spirit aircraft, pilots, maintainers and support staff from the 509th Bomb Wing are returning home having completed another successful deployment here.
Aircraft and Airmen from the 393rd and 13th Bomb Squadrons and 509th Maintenance Group at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., have been deployed to Andersen as part of Operation Ocean Fury, promoting regional security and preserving regional stability while providing U.S. Pacific Command with a continuous bomber presence in the region. The Airmen also deployed to Andersen AFB from April through September 2005.
Airmen from the two bomb squadrons each completed approximately two months at Andersen so each squadron had the opportunity to fly training sorties here. The B-2 maintainers and other support personnel, such as life support and communications, fulfilled a four-month deployment.
One of the first exercises in which B-2s participated during this deployment was a Polar Lightning, conducted by the 393rd EBS one week after arriving.
"The purpose of a Polar Lightning exercise is two-fold," said Lt. Col. William Eldridge, 13th EBS commander. "First, it demonstrates our ability to provide precision airpower anywhere in the Pacific theater on short notice. Second, exercises like Polar Lightning provide valuable long-duration training for B-2 pilots. Historically, B-2 combat sorties averaged 30 hours. Long-duration sortie training allows our pilots to experience a typical combat sortie."
The two-ship formation required pilots to complete their sortie at a training range approximately 5,000 miles away in Alaska, resulting in a 10,000-mile round trip lasting 24 hours. Each of the two bomb squadrons completed one Polar Lightning exercise.
The 393rd EBS continued to stay busy throughout its two-month deployment, taking part in the largest Pacific exercise since the Vietnam era, Valiant Shield, and the integration and maritime interdiction exercise Northern Edge.
Valiant Shield was "a rare opportunity to bring together platforms that normally do not regularly exercise together -- Air Force fighters and bombers and Navy carrier strike groups -- 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.
Northern Edge 2006, a joint training exercise hosted by Alaskan Command, was one of a series of U.S. Pacific Command exercises preparing joint forces to respond to crises in the Asia-Pacific region.
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.
"B-2s integrated with F-22s to 'kick-down-the-door' against a simulated enemy integrated air defense anchored by formidable Northern Edge 'enemy' fighters," said Maj. Mark Pye, 36th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron B-2 mission planning cell chief. "This paved the way for powerful follow-on strike packages to attack enemy maritime and land-based targets at will."
One constant throughout the deployment was the work of the B-2 maintainers. In addition to keeping the aircraft flying, maintainers were pivotal in the preparation for a potential typhoon in early August. B-2 maintenance Airmen worked together with their F-15E Strike Eagle counterparts, deployed here from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska.
"In the hours just prior to the storm's estimated arrival time, our maintainers were able to position two B-2s and four F-15Es in a hangar with minimum separation between the aircraft," said Chief Master Sgt. Charles Hammerle, 36th EAMXS B-2 maintenance superintendent. "This was a huge accomplishment, because it not only saved us from having to evacuate aircraft, but also proved that in the future if there is a storm approaching putting various types of aircraft in this hangar at the same time is a viable option."
The 13th EBS continued the busy flying schedule established by its predecessors and took part in the first B-2 deployment on the continent of Australia. The event took place July 25 to 27 and featured training sorties on Australia's Delamere Air Weapons Range and a B-2 engine-running crew change at RAAF Darwin.
Called "Green Lightning," this total force mission featured B-2s from the 13th EBS and was supported by KC-10 Extenders from the U.S. Air Force Reserve Command's 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, deployed to Andersen from McGuire AFB, N.J.
"Exercises like this underline the continuing importance of the Australia-U.S. alliance as an anchor of regional security in the Asia-Pacific region," Colonel Wheeler said. "This benefits both nations and will greatly improve our strategic interoperability.
"The rotational bomber presence is aimed at enhancing regional security, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Western Pacific and providing integrated training opportunities," he said. "Working with our Australian allies helps us achieve all of these objectives, while continuing to build on our relationship."
Colonel Wheeler emphasized the valuable training opportunities as a highlight of the previous four months.
"Deploying here gives us the opportunity to do things we simply can't do at Whiteman," he said. "Whether that's working with our Navy counterparts during Valiant Shield, or using the training range in Australia, these are valuable training opportunities unique to this part of the world (that) enhance our deterrent posture."
As the B-2s return to Whiteman this week, B-52 Stratofortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D., will arrive to continue the bomber-presence mission.