ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Coming off a successful deployment to the Pacific theater that included a multitude of first-ever accomplishments, Ellsworth Airmen continue to train and deploy at the pace they have maintained for more than a decade. Dispelling a common myth that the B-1’s are “taking a break” as the fleet undergoes the most comprehensive upgrades since its inception.
The 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron recently returned from a six-month deployment to Guam supporting the U.S. Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission after spending more than 15 years deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations, with over a decade of that time as an enduring and uninterrupted combat operation. The 34th’s deployment represented the vanguard of the B-1’s return to the Pacific AOR.
“From the time B-1 units were ordered west from the enduring presence we had in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, our operations tempo has continued at an amazing pace,” said Lt. Col. Seth Spanier, 34th EBS commander. “We’ve participated in numerous exercises, higher headquarters missions, and most recently, our successful deployment to the PACOM AOR.”
The 34th EBS along with the 34th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit executed 278 sorties, 71 of which were higher headquarters-directed (HHD) missions. The deployment began with PACOM’s first tri-bomber HHD mission comprised of a B-1B Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress and a B-2 Spirit.
“The simultaneous employment and integration of all three bomber aircraft in the Pacific allowed us to demonstrate the amazing capabilities each aircraft brings to the fight,” Spanier said. “All are impressive long range strikers, but each excels with its attributes in different tactical environments. The tri-bomber mission allowed us to demonstrate an impressive array of these unique capabilities to friend and foe alike.”
In their continued efforts to deter aggression, offer assurance to America’s allies, and strengthen regional security in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, the 34th EBS took advantage of the unique opportunities presented. This included training focused on standoff weapons with dynamic Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile targeting, maritime combat ops, close air support, aerial maritime mining, strike coordination and reconnaissance, surface attack, and dissimilar air combat training.
Spanier added that the several large-scale exercises B-1 aircrews participated in allowed them to hone detailed integration and high-end tactics with allies and partners against potential adversaries in contested and degraded operational environments.
“Exercises like Valiant Shield and Keen Sword are a key component that improve both joint service and allied interoperability in the region,” Spanier said. “These types of exercises help ensure our lethality in the next potential conflict scenario.”
During the deployment, the B-1 flew a deterrence mission directly along the Korean Demilitarized Zone after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s largest nuclear test.
“Amongst all of the U.S. combat power in the Pacific, the Commander of U.S. PACOM directly chose the 34th EBS B-1’s as his primary response to this nuclear test in order to send a message that further tests will not be accepted,” Spanier said. “This is the quintessential piece of nuclear deterrence - messaging to a potential adversary that their nuclear threats will not be tolerated. DPRK officials took notice of the B-1 sorties and no further nuclear test has occurred since.”
In February the 34th EBS passed the baton to the 9th EBS from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and they are continuing the B-1 presence in the PACOM AOR. The 34th EBS B-1s returned from their deployment and are now being outfitted with the Sustainment-Block 16 upgrade, making the B-1B even more lethal and precise.
“The B-1 is a powerhouse that brings a lot to the fight,” said Maj. Joshua Parker, a pilot assigned to the 34th EBS. “With the variety of missions we can execute, the B-1s continue to excel at home station and abroad while undergoing necessary modifications and upgrades to keep them combat ready. With the SB-16 advancement, our B-1s will have even greater combat capability.”
While awaiting their next deployment to a forward location, no matter where the AOR, the B-1s continue to train at home, participate in combat training exercises, and provide airpower around the globe.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished during our deployment in the PACOM AOR,” Spanier said. “We executed a successful mission while displaying the impressive speed, range, and precision of the B-1 and ensured that our B-1s and Airmen are ready for combat anytime, anywhere.”