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Andersen bombers complete series of Koa sorties

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erica Stewart
  • 36th Operations Group public affairs
Five B-52 Stratofortresses, deployed here from Barksdale AFB, La., tested their endurance and commitment to security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region during five Koa  missions on March 12 through 14. 

Each mission over the bombing range in Hawaii provided the crew with a unique training opportunity. 

"The navigators, who are responsible for the weapons, get the change to hone their skills by working with Joint Tactical Air Control teams, which are on the ground," said Lt. Col. James Melvin, 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron director of operations. "Although the weapons are simulated, the procedures and command and control are not so, this significantly increases the joint interoperability of all involved." 

Colonel Melvin said the 96 EBS spreads its sorties in groups and over the span of a few days to maximize its training opportunities. 

"We fly the mission over several days in order to allow each crew, in the air and on the ground, to cycle through the training area," Colonel Melvin said. "Because of the significant amount of coordination involved in arranging the use of the air space and aerial refueling assets, the missions are flown over several days in a row rather than a few days here and there." 

Not only did the crews receive invaluable training with simulated weapons, but they also prepared their bodies for other long-duration missions. 

"Long-duration sorties train our aircrew to remain vigilant for the whole duration," 1st Lt. Tim Vander Pyl, 36th EBS, explained. 

Lieutenant Vander Pyl said that the sortie, when coupled with up to four hours of pre- and post-flight briefings, make a training sortie like this easily turn into a a full day event.
"In all, it was a 25 hour day; it was the longest I had ever done, and I was beat when it was over," the lieutenant said. 

Long-duration sorties are beneficial in helping the air crew prepare for what flying time would be like in a combat scenario. 

"Long-duration missions last at least 18 hours," said Lieutenant Vander Pyl "Anytime we're employed in the Global War on Terror, we're going to fly long sorties like these Koa Lightning ones. We rarely fly over 10 to 12 hours, but our actual combat durations are usually 17 to 19 hours." 

All the long hours and training reinforces the United States' commitment to regional and global security, according to Col. Damien McCarthy, 36th Operations Group commander.

"We train like we live," said Colonel McCarthy. "The B-52 is capable of delivering supreme fire power from anywhere in the world at anytime, and long-duration training missions, like Koa Lightening, allow us to project our capabilities from U.S. soil."

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