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13th EBS completes deployments first Polar Lightning exercise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Whitney
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Deployed aircrew members from the 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron recently completed their first Polar Lightning exercise.

Flying four B-2 Spirit bombers, the Airmen completed the exercise, which tests their ability to execute a long-duration mission soon after deploying to a forward operating base. Their mission took them from Andersen to Alaska and back, totaling more than 8,000 miles and lasting about 24 hours.

The Airmen, deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., are deployed here as part of a regularly scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotation of bombers that has been underway since 2003, showcasing U.S. commitment to peace and stability throughout the Pacific region.

"Most missions for bombers are long duration flights like what we did during Polar Lightning," said Maj. Beth Makros, 13th EBS assistant director of operations and mission planner for this exercise. "It is important that we practice like we play, and Polar Lightning provides a great opportunity for our aircrew to get some long endurance experience."

During the mission, a B-2 Spirit flew for 11 hours to Alaska. When the aircrew reached the Alaskan Range, the bomber dropped more than 6,000 pounds of ordnance over two hours of range time and then returned to Andersen.

Although the B-2 Spirit was originally scheduled to participate with F-22 Raptors, E-3 AWACS and F-16 Fighting Falcon Aggressors from Elmendorf and Eielson AFB's, the B-2 Spirit crew was still able to gain valuable training after inclement weather in Alaska prevented the other airframes to integrate with the B-2s.

"The training that the aircrew got was invaluable, and even though some of the players were unable to participate due to weather, we developed strong contacts with the other units for future Polar Lightning exercises," said Major Makros.

Polar Lightning is a frequent exercise, taking place every month, and the aircrews regularly participate in similar exercises at their home station.

To successfully fly a long-duration mission, many preparations must be made. From eating the right diet, to lining up tanker aircraft support, all the way down to a good night's rest, preparation is key to a successful mission.

The support that the 434th Air Refueling Squadron, deployed here from Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., has been vital to the missions the 13th EBS has completed so far.
"The tanker support here has been phenomenal. For this exercise, we had to refuel three times before the mission was over, and to ensure our success not only did they have a tanker escort us to Alaska, but they pre-staged tankers at Alaska to get us back home as well," said Major Makros.

Another important player in the exercise was the flight doctor, who monitored the pilots sleep schedule and diet to make sure that the pilots level of alertness was as high as it could be during the stressful situation, according to Major. Makros.

The mission also had to be scheduled so that when they arrived in Alaska, the time of day was accurate, so that the ability of the stealth bomber was at its peak.

Although all the coordination and preparation was a lot of hard work, in the end it was worth the effort, according to the major. "The experience that the crew gained from the exercise and taking off from a new location was completely irreplaceable, and without help from various players, it wouldn't have been possible."