Bombers fly down under

By on Thursday, July 30th, 2009

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam: Members of the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron here completed 10 sorties flying more than 110 hours while participating in Talisman Saber 2009 July 15 through 24 over Australia.

The bilateral command post and field training exercise was designed to increase interoperability between U.S. and Australian forces.

Missions for the B-52 Stratofortresses, deployed here from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., consisted of flying 12 hours from Guam to Australian training ranges where they worked with joint and coalition forces.

“It’s really a great opportunity for someone like me to get this kind of experience that will later aid me if we get the call to go fight the real fight,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Egan, a 96th EBS B-52 co-pilot. “The overall experience was just incredible, to be able to talk to people from other countries who are our allies and work with them.”

Lieutenant Egan was a part of the mission planning cell that planned the first six missions of the exercise. He also flew the last sortie, which concluded the B-52 participation of the exercise.

“Once a tasking order drops, we take that information that is important to us to plan the mission, so our fliers can execute the mission to the best of their capability,” Lieutenant Egan said. “I pretend that I’m flying the mission (when planning it) seeing what I need to know, what players are involved, what our time on target is and when our tanking schedule is. We put all of that information together so our crews can go complete the mission.

“We integrated with their forces down there,” he said. “(We worked with) joint aircraft that were involved in the exercise and also with Royal Australian Air Force (personnel) on the ground for air to ground strikes, and then we flew back to Guam.”

The lieutenant said the exercise helped him see how each of the joint and coalition services combines to complete a mission.

“Getting to see the big picture is really helpful to someone like me,” he said. “It was a great chance to work with our sister services and see how they do business, and to see how everything comes together.”

Lieutenant Egan also added that participating in the exercise was a chance for the world to see the capabilities of the B-52.

“It’s a proving ground, not only to prove to ourselves that we are capable of doing this kind of mission, but also proving to the world that we can deliver decisive combat airpower,” he said.

The flight crew for the final sortie to Australia all felt that the exercise was a great demonstration of the U.S. Pacific Command commander’s continuous bomber presence.

“We’re showing that we can take off from anywhere and drop bombs on target anytime, anywhere and return back to anywhere we need to,” said 1st Lt. Mehul Brahmbhatt, a 96th EBS B-52 navigator. “I liked the ability to get spun up and work with the coalition forces, and expand our presence in the area of responsibility.”

Approximately 50 aviators from the 96th EBS supported the exercise.

“It’s quite a feat getting an exercise like this off the ground,” said Capt. Sean Stavely, a 96th EBS B-52 aircraft commander. “Talisman Saber is essentially a large-force exercise in Australia including many joint and coalition forces, where we join to fight together and sharpen our tactical sword in a joint atmosphere.”

The exercise focused on crisis action planning and execution of contingency response operations, he said.

“Our purpose was to demonstrate what we can do with the B-52,” Captain Stavely said. “Offensive counter air platforms will go out and take care of the ‘bad guys’ while we go in as the bomb droppers, the strikers, and put our bombs on target after the ‘bad guys’ are taken care of.”

The long-duration flight was one of the aspects Captain Stavely said he looked forward to in participating in the joint and coalition exercise of more than 30,000 servicemembers.

“I enjoyed demonstrating our global strike capability,” he said. “Taking off from Guam, going somewhere a long distance away, putting our bombs on target, and then coming back to the base that we came from is a demonstration of our continuous bomber presence on Guam.”

Talisman Saber 2009 concluded for the B-52 aircrews with a mass debrief of the exercise to talk about the lessons learned, he said.

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