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B-52s provide RIMPAC 2012 air capability

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Sarah Bergstein
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Members from the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., participated in nine sorties in support of this year's Rim of the Pacific exercise July 11 to 31 in and around training areas surrounding the Hawaiian islands.

Six B-52s from the 69th EBS, accompanied by more than 200 Airmen, are currently deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence to maintain security and stability in the Western Pacific.

"RIMPAC reminds us how vital it is to train with our fellow U.S. forces as well as our international partners around the globe, enabling us to work together and respond effectively if needed," said Col. Randy Kaufman, 36th Operations Group commander. "The 69th EBS' participation in RIMPAC not only shows their ability to support PACOM's CBP, but also the global readiness they bring to the fight."

RIMPAC is a biennial multinational maritime exercise held by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Beginning in 1971 and now in its 23rd year, RIMPAC boasts 22 participating nations, 42 surface ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel.

Scheduled from June 27 to Aug. 9, the theme of RIMPAC 2012 is, "Capable, Adaptive, Partners."

"Our participation in a multi-national exercise like RIMPAC affords us the opportunity to improve interoperability and strengthen relationship with our regional partners," said Lt. Col. Doug Gosney, 69th EBS commander. "Additionally, our aircrews get first-rate training and gain invaluable experience by operating in this dynamic, joint coalition environment. RIMPAC provided an unmatched training opportunity for my aviators."

The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The primary objective of bomber participation in this year's RIMPAC exercise was to enhance crew proficiency and promote international military cooperation.

"These long-duration sorties helped simulate our real-world taskings," said Colonel Gosney. "Employing with other Air Force assets, our sister services and the nations of the Pacific theater afforded us a unique training opportunity."

Averaging 20 to 22-hour sorties, each with two air refuelings, the 69th EBS flew over 180 hours from Guam to the Hawaiian airspace and back.

"We started with a crawl, walk, run mentality," said Maj. Christopher Morris, 69th EBS Mission Planning Cell team chief. "At first, our participation focused at the unit level and then moved into force-integration training where we worked with other players. In the final phase of RIMPAC, we integrated B-52s into a robust regional combat scenario."
In the first phase of unit level training, targets are generally pre-planned and aircrews know exactly what to look for. In the force-integration phase and the final combat scenario, targets are unknown, meaning aircrews not only have to locate their targets, but also determine how to strike and with what weapons to strike.

"This demonstrates the flexibility of the B-52 and our aircrews," said Major Morris. "Our joint-Service commanders know they can count on the B-52 to deliver bombs on target 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year--worldwide--and in this case, from more than 3000 miles away."

The 69th EBS' first two sorties for this year's RIMPAC, July 11 and 13, supported a high-priority MINEX, a low-level mine-laying exercise designed to train the Navy's counter-mine specialists.

"We're working with Navy fleet to train in aerial interdiction of maritime targets," said Major Morris. "This includes gathering intelligence, honing our skills in low-level flying, providing close air support and simulating strikes when targets are found."

Exercises in the region are ideal forums to showcase U.S. defense aircraft and equipment, work hand-in-hand with regional partners and contribute toward interoperability with other countries.

Movement of U.S. Air Force bombers into the Western Pacific has been ongoing since March 2004, as the U.S. Pacific Command adjusts its force posture to maintain a prudent deterrent capability.

Rotational bomber deployments to Guam help maintain stability and security in the Western Pacific, while allowing units to become familiar with operating in the Pacific Theater.

"As a Navy-centric exercise, we're thrilled about the air capabilities that our B-52s were able to provide in support of RIMPAC," said Colonel Kaufman. "There's something to be said about U.S. Air Force B-52s flying with Marine Corps F-18s alongside Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s and P-3s as well as Japanese F-2s and F-15Js."

As the world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC is a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans.

Other U.S. Air Force aircraft participating in RIMPAC 2012 include: C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster IIIs, B-52 Stratofortress, E-3 Sentries, A-10 Thunderbolt IIIs, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and HH-60G Pave Hawks.

"RIMPAC is a testament to the mutual understanding and respect we gain from exercising with regional partners, all working together on a number of different and potential operations and missions," said Colonel Kaufman. "We look forward to participating again in 2014 and bringing an enhanced portfolio of new capabilities."