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B-52s participate in Koa Lightning exercise

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Tiffany Bares
  • 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron
B-52 aircrews from the 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron flew to Hawaii last week for an opportunity to sharpen their war fighting skills in the latest Koa Lightning exercise. 

A Pacific Command exercise Koa Lightning, consisting of air -to-air intercept training with aircraft based out of Hickam AFB, Hawaii, provided scores of challenging scenarios designed to hone the combat edge of both the 20 EBS and other Pacific Forces resources. 

"Koa Lightning is very similar to a B-52 combat sortie. We typically fly great distances with multiple air refuelings to strike targets across the globe," said Lt. Col. Thomas Hesterman, 20 EBS commander. "This exercise highlights the flexibility and range of bombers and further demonstrates our capability to help maintain peace and security in such a vast region like Pacific Command's area of responsibility." 

This mission consisted of a flight of B-52s flying more than 18 hours and 6,880 nautical miles to Hawaii and back. Due to the distance and air time, the B-52s took on more than 180,000 pounds of fuel from KC-135 tankers from the 186th Air Refueling Wing deployed from Mississippi and the 168th Air Refueling Wing in Alaska. 

Once in Hawaii, the B-52s practiced bombing missions in which they were intercepted by aircraft. The aircrews used defensive tactics while continuing with their mission to put bombs on target. This type of training is crucial for the aircrews since it is possible that they could encounter this situation in combat. 

Lt. Col. Frederick Frostic, 20 EBS director of operations, stated "Koa Lightning gave us a chance to work with ground controllers integrating tasks in theater as well as exercise the Hawaiian Air Guard in their execution of the Hawaiian mission." He also stated "It demonstrates the bombers ability to travel nine hours, put bombs on target and return to base." 

"This exercise tested our endurance as well," Colonel Hesterman added. "Flying 18-hour sorties gives our aircrews a taste of what combat can be like. It brings together elements of tanker support, air intercept and air defense training. It also proves our ability to operate as a cohesive team and achieve the objectives set by the combatant commander."

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