USAF B-1B bombers conduct JTACs, ACE training over Europe

Currently deployed to the UK for Bomber Task Force-Europe (BTF-Europe) 22-1, two US Air Force (USAF)-operated Rockwell B-1B Lancer supersonic strategic bombers integrated with allied Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs) over Lithuania and hot-pit refuelled at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany before returning to RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire, on October 11.

Arriving in the UK last week, four B-1Bs from the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron of the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, are set to operate from RAF Fairford for multiple weeks. The BTF-Europe mission supports US defence and its European deterrence against eastern activity. The BTF mission series also serves to provide integration opportunities with allied forces throughout the European and African theatres. 

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USAF B-1B bomber lights its afterburners on departure at RAF Fairford ahead of a BTF mission. USAF/Senior Airman Colin Hollowell

Coalition JTACs from Lithuania and Air Force Special Operation Command’s 352nd Special Operations Wing, based at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, coordinated with the B-1B aircrews during the mission and identified simulated ground targets for the aircraft. The mission had a rationale of enhancing readiness and interoperability for the controllers responsible for coordinating airstrikes to support allied ground forces.

Following this, the B-1Bs landed at Spangdahlem Air Base for an Agile Combat Employment (ACE) refuelling. The aircraft were hot-pit refuelled (engines running) by 52nd Fighter Wing personnel via the Versatile integrating Partner Equipment Refuelling (VIPER) kit. The Viper Kit enables USAF Bombers to land and operate from austere locations.

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USAF B-1B Lancer rotates from RAF Fairford's runway for a BTF 22-1 mission. USAF/Senior Airman Colin Hollowell

Gen Jeff Harrigian, USAFE-AFAFRICA commander said: “BTF rotations allow our coalition to closely integrate and employ new and advanced tactics across two continents, our joint and multinational forces must be ready to respond to any threat in order to maintain the global security environment.”