EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska: The 96th Bomb Squadron from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed here for exercise Northern Edge 2009 to practice mission planning and war-time procedures.
The 96th BS brought three B-52H Stratofortress long-range bombers to train in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex and over the Gulf of Alaska with other Air Force units along with the Navy, Marines and Army.
The B-52 is an aircraft that can fly long distances and has the capability of holding large amounts of munitions, which is important in global deterrence.
“We can drop bombs anywhere in the world, including the Pacific,” said Capt. Bryan Walter, B-52H navigator. “The B-52’s have up-to-date systems and the aircraft is constantly improving, making the aircraft still very relevant in today’s world.”
But in order for the B-52H to unleash its full potential in the sky, pilots and navigators alike must come together behind the scenes and become familiar with other aircraft and different missions that participating units bring to the table.
“Mission planning is probably one of the most crucial things during Northern Edge 2009,” said Capt. Chris Diaz, B-52H pilot. “We all get to learn the roles and missions of other flyers compared to us; when we’re able to communicate those things face-to-face, the mission becomes that much easier.”
Good mission planning can translate into highly effective learning experiences for involved participants, resulting in putting bombs on target, on time.
“The B-52 can use a multitude of weapons and hold 10 to 45 munitions at a time,” said Captain Diaz. “We can bring the fight to the enemy for long durations and distances, but we couldn’t do it as effectively without having the F-16’s or F-15’s working with us – they help us get the job done.”
The B-52H aircrews get to try new tactics and see how they can use them for real scenarios, according to Captain Walter.
At the end of the exercise, the 96th BS will incorporate lessons learned into future planning and preparation for joint military missions. They will also have a better understanding of how different services operate, according to Captain Walter.
“At the beginning of Northern Edge 2009, there were a lot of things that we didn’t know and it was really hazy,” said Captian Diaz. “But after working in a joint environment for a while, it felt like we all started to come together and the missions became seamless. It’s a great experience and enhances our skills.”
Northern Edge 2009 is a mass exercise which provides an opportunity for participants to gain experience in responding to crises in the Asian Pacific region.