B-1B Lancers conduct long-range BTF mission in South China Sea

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer from the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., approaches a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron, to refuel during a 33-hour round-trip sortie to conduct operations over the Pacific as part of a joint U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission April 30, 2020. This operation demonstrates the U.S. Air Force’s dynamic force employment model in line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability with persistent bomber presence, assuring allies and partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cynthia Belío)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — A pair of B-1B Lancers assigned to Ellsworth Air Force Base deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, launched from the island base to conduct a long-range strategic Bomber Task Force mission in the South China Sea on July 21.

The 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron conducted a maritime integration operation with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group in the Philippine Sea.

The B-1 and its crews demonstrated the U.S. commitment to the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific, while also displaying the ability to rapidly deploy to a forward operating location and sustain operations whenever called upon.

“The BTF construct provides the flexibility for our bombers to operate in any area of responsibility and enhances our readiness,” said Lt. Col. Lincoln Coleman, 37th EBS commander. “It gives us the ability to project air power across the globe.”

The non-stop mission was made possible with the support from KC-135 Stratotankers from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron and the dedication of the 37th Aircraft Maintenance Unit took the B-1s to the South China Sea and allowed the bomber to fly for 14 consecutive hours.

U.S. Strategic Command routinely conducts BTF operations across the globe as a demonstration of U.S. commitment to collective defense and to integrate with Geographic Combatant Command operations and activities. Coleman noted these missions provide B-1 aircrews the opportunity to train with allies and partner nations they may work with in future operations.

“These missions strengthen our partnerships and increases our interoperability with a wide variety of military assets,” Coleman said. “Not only throughout the Department of Defense, but also with our allies across the globe.”

More than 150 Airmen and several B-1 bombers arrived at Anderson AFB on July 17. Col. David Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander, said ensuring the base remains mission ready and able to deploy for missions such as these during the COVID-19 pandemic is why Ellsworth instituted restrictions and safeguards for its personnel from the beginning.

“Because our members often work closely together, one positive case can cause the quarantine of many personnel which can have a devastating mission impact,” Doss said. “These safeguards and restrictions are continuously updated based on the potential for increased risk of COVID-19 spread due to events that attract large crowds or an increase in out of town visitors. The 28th Bomb Wing must always be prepared to answer our nation’s call anytime, anywhere at a moment’s notice without fail.”

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