Military News

Monday, April 06, 2015

AFGSC bomber force trains in Arctic, North Sea

Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

4/6/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Air Force Global Strike Command recently completed a pair of simultaneous long-range bomber missions in two geographic combatant commands, enabling units to become familiar with operating in different regions of the globe.

April 1-2, two B-52H Stratofortresses from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and a pair from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., completed nonstop roundtrip sorties from their home stations on to the Arctic and North Sea regions, respectively.

Dubbed Polar Growl, the U.S. Strategic Command training mission was flown in support of both U.S. European Command and U.S. Northern Command and was specifically designed to demonstrate the United States' commitment to Allies and enhancement of regional security.

"These flights, demonstrating the credible and flexible ability of our strategic bomber force in internationally-recognized flight information regions, are the culmination of months of planning and coordination," said Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander. "They are one of many ways we demonstrate interoperability, compliance with national and international protocols and due regard for the safety of all aircraft sharing the air space."

Polar Growl allowed the bomber aircrews to hone their navigation skills and enhanced their ability to work with Allied partners. The simultaneous flights also tested the bomber force's command and control apparatus' ability to support two synchronized flight paths. Additionally, bomber crews flying the North Sea route participated in dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with fighter aircraft flown by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

"The long-range nature of the mission, coupled with the opportunity to interact, in real-time, with Allied aircraft was an invaluable experience that simply can't be replicated out of the cockpit," said Maj. Nathan Barnhart, a 343rd Bomb Squadron instructor radar navigator at Barksdale. "Training like this ensures we are ready to respond to any and all mission directives across the globe."

Bomber crews on the Arctic leg of the mission transited around the North Pole, providing the crews invaluable training in polar navigation. They also conducted dissimilar air intercept maneuvers with Royal Canadian Air Force fighters.

"There are a rare number of opportunities to practice Polar Navigation. The training that the crews received from the Polar Growl mission was invaluable," said the 5th Operations Support Squadron's nuclear operations center chief at Minot. "We continue to update the knowledge base of the crew force through squadron and operation discussions of these events to share experiences and techniques to keep the sword sharp in the many mission sets the B-52 Stratofortress is responsible for."

From active-duty and reserve aircrews, maintainers, and support personnel generating and controlling the bomber missions, to active-duty and Air National Guard refueling, each of the two legs of Polar Growl provided unique training opportunities for the Total Force.

"This is a great Total Force Enterprise mission bringing unparalleled experience to reserve aircrew operating in conjunction with active duty aircrew while demonstrating interoperability and readiness to our Allies around the world," said Lt. Col. Robert Burgess, 343rd Bomb Squadron commander. "TFE is a way to bring the smallest, oldest and busiest Air Force together to maintain the capabilities necessary for demands of today's operational tempos."

The United States regularly conducts combined training and theater security cooperation engagements with Allies and partners. The combined training provided in Polar Growl follows the participation of B-52s in NATO Exercise Noble Justification in October and the deployment of B-52s and B-2s to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, in June, both of which provided occasions to train alongside U.S. Allies and partners.

"Today's dynamic global security environment is an interdependent world where international partnerships are foundational," Haney said. "Exercises and operations such as these bomber flights enable and enhance relationships with our Allies and partners, and allow others to understand what capabilities U.S. Strategic Command brings to the equation."

The B-52 is capable of delivering large payload of precision nuclear or conventional ordnance over long ranges, while also providing decision makers the ability to rapidly project military power and generate decisive effects.

"Polar Growl was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the awesome capability of the B-52," said a 69th Bomb Squadron pilot from Minot who participated in the mission. "The maintainers, support personnel and aircrew did an excellent job showcasing the BUFF's ability to project combat power anywhere in the world."

Polar Growl was not directed at any country. To enhance regional safety and to prevent any chance of misunderstanding, U.S. forces conduct these flights in accordance with the procedures outlined in the International Civil Aviation Organization international standards and recommended practices.

(U.S. Strategic Command Public Affairs, Senior Airman Benjamin Raughton, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs; and Senior Airman Malia Jenkins, Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs, contributed to this report.)

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