Military News

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kicking down the door: The future of the bomber enterprise

by Airman 1st Class Curt Beach
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

10/16/2015 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Airmen from the 77th and 340th Weapons Squadrons joined forces to implement the integration of standoff munitions during an exercise at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Oct. 6-9.

Aided by a host of integration experts from various squadrons, the exercise aimed to achieve two specific objectives. The first was to educate weapons school students on cruise missile employment considerations and existing processes for planning and integrating cruise missiles. The second was to advance the development of those planning processes in an attempt to make cruise missile attacks more effective and more efficient against a modern adversary. It was also critical to the two squadrons that they develop their solutions as a single bomber team.

"The desired result was to send all participants away with a greater understanding of and appreciation for the processes that will lead to successful employment of standoff munitions," said Lt. Col. Erik Johnson, 340th WPS commander. "Participants will also have a working relationship with other individuals and agencies who seek to enhance cruise missile employment."

This exercise embodied the partnership between B-1 Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress personnel.

"The integration between the platforms was great, especially when you consider that they are now united under one command," said 1st Lt. Nicholas Proulx, Standoff Munitions Application Center planner. "They spent a week working together, analyzing the threat, figuring out which tactics would work, planning which missiles were going on which jets, everything from the ground up. This is something the students of each platform have done before but not necessarily together as a team in the same room. Now we can have a bigger, better conversation on how to go about tomorrow's threat, how to tackle it as a bomber enterprise."

Following two days of mission planning, the students briefed their plan to Col. Patrick Matthews, 8th Air Force vice commander, who said, "This is very important for the Air Force," and highlighted the challenging real-world problem sets this scenario prepares these warfighters to plan and execute.

"They were essentially learning how to take down a modern Integrated Air Defense System, which is a challenge our Air Force faces every day," said Proulx. "These students are going to be subject matter experts when they go back to their squadrons and share this knowledge. Having these skills, learning them here, it's the way of the future for the bomber enterprise."

On Oct. 8, the weapons school students conducted a live-fly event to validate tactics, demonstrate execution timelines and experience a sample of potential adversary responses to their attack.

"Each weapons school class has a capstone project. This exercise was a part of that," said Proulx. "How do you take out the IADS to achieve air superiority? It's this air superiority that provides freedom of movement to our armed forces and the ability to conduct follow-on attacks uncontested by enemy air defenses."

During the exercise, aircrew from the 7th Bomb Wing ferried a B-1 Lancer here for 77th WPS students and instructors to fly in the live-fly portion of the cruise missile integration exercise. The ferry crews then returned the jets to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, after the 77th WPS completed their misison.

Two additional aspects of this exercise served to increase its effectiveness even further.

Following high-fidelity modeling and simulation, the results of this exercise fed the scenario for a future exercise, known as a vul, which focuses on advanced tactics to defeat a modern air defense network.

"The iterative learning process this creates is where we expect to see the greatest advancements in the cruise missile enterprise," said Johnson.

The coming vul historically kicks off with a standoff munitions attack, but it has never had the level of fidelity in analysis to drive realistic expectations of what an integrated cruise missile attack can accomplish. The modeling and simulation SMAC compiles will provide that fidelity for the first time. As a result of the new format, the lessons learned in this exercise will be shared with a much larger audience of weapons officers at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, in December.

The final aspect of this integration of standoff munitions exercise that will significantly advance cruise missile integration processes will occur in about six months, when the next weapons school class performs this event. They will begin their exercise with all the plans and analysis this week produced.  Rather than starting from scratch, as this class did, they will have the opportunity to improve on a plan that has already demonstrated its strengths and weaknesses.

"The better the bomber force is with these standoff tactics, the more effective the rest of the Air Force can be," said Proulx. "So it's crucial that the bomber force learns to do this well because we're going to be facing this for decades to come."

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