The next time somebody has an idea about cutting back on the Air Force’s fleet of B-1B Lancers, don’t be surprised if you hear about the 7th Bomb Wing’s recent deployment.
The airmen of the 7th kept a bomber in the air over Afghanistan every moment of their deployment, according to an Air Force announcement, in the largest B-1 overseas deployment in 10 years.
That translates to nine bombers, 400 airmen, and a whole litany of fun facts as broken out here by the Air Force:
The airmen of the 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and 9th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit provided more than 25 percent of the total fixed-wing close-air support coverage for coalition ground forces in Afghanistan every day by launching the most B-1 sorties executed on a single deployment in more than 10 years of sustained conflict.
Over the course of the six-plus month deployment, the squadron flew more than 770 combat sorties, encompassing over 9,500 hours, to provide 24 hours of coverage every day.
They also responded to more than 500 troops-in-contact situations, with the enemy as close as 300 meters from friendly forces, and another 700 priority air requests, delivering more than 400 weapons on target.
“We were able to achieve these great stats through pure hard work,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Brooks, 9th Bomb Squadron commander. “Our squadron flew 130 more sorties than any B-1 squadron had flown in any other six month deployment. You don’t accomplish this by luck. It’s pure hard work and dedication from the aircraft maintainers, weapon builders and load crews, B-1 aviators, and the rest of the 7th Bomb Wing who deployed with us.”
The 9th EBS and 9th EAMU completed a complex B-1 sustainment block upgrade in the midst of combat operations, while avoiding any degradation in support to ongoing missions. The upgrade, completed to all nine aircraft in only six days, fulfilled an Air Forces Central Urgent Operational Needs request to fully integrate the sniper targeting pod onto the B-1, thereby providing machine-to-machine interface between the targeting pod and weapons, and reducing the targeting timeline by 33 percent.
The modification also ensured full operational capability for the B-1 to employ the GBU-54 Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition, providing Combined Forces Air Component Commander with the first-ever B-1 capability to engage and destroy moving targets.
Not bad — this is exactly the kind of sales pitch that B-1 advocates have been making all along. So far it has worked; we saw where the Air Force seemed to quietly withdraw its plans to cull the Bones, at least in the near term. The challenge for B-1 fans, however, will be making the case to keep the current force when it no longer has to stay overhead in Afghanistan at all times.
H/T: Daily Report