Wednesday, February 15, 2017

B2 Bombers Hit ISIS Refuled by JBMDL Tankers

B2 Bombers Hit ISIS in Libya

Refuled by JBMDL Tankers 

B-2 Bomber Being Refueled in the Air. 

By William Kelly 

One of President Barack Obama’s last orders as Commander in Chief was for the U.S. military to attack Islamic State camps deep in the Libyan desert.

To accomplish this mission the military called on two B-2 Spirit bombers based at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, where planners coordinated the tanker missions, ensuring that the refueling aircraft were at the right place at the right time to get the bombers to their targets and back.

The 32 hour, 5,700 mile sortie was supported by more than a dozen KC-135 Stratotankers and KC-10 Extender Air Force tankers from five different bases, some from the 305th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL), New Jersey.

Col. Colonel Darren Cole, the 305th AMW commander said several units had to come together from different locations and commands and function together as a team to make this mission happen.

“It’s a big team that has to execute things on time to make it work right,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive to be able to hit a target globally at a moment’s notice with so many people participating.”

As detailed in a Popular Mechanics article – To Libya and Back - (  Joe Pappalardo writes:

"The mission is easy to describe, but hard to execute. Two B-2 Spirit bombers, each with two people in the cockpit, take off, fly to the target, drop enough bombs to eradicate the ISIS camps, and fly back home to Missouri. Things get more complex as planners weigh in on everything from the pilot's diets to the size of the bombs loaded in the airplane."

"'It takes a symphony of people,'" says Major General Scott Vander Hamm, assistant deputy chief of staff of operations at the Air Force headquarters and a former B-2 pilot."

"Eventually, it's time to refuel. The B-2s meets KC-135 Stratotankers at least twice on the way to Libya. It's a coordinated dance that must occur no matter what the weather or time of day. The airplane in need of fuel flies directly behind the tanker. The tanker then extends a telescoping fueling boom. The end of the boom—the fuel nozzle—latches into a small hole in the receiving aircraft, and the fuel pumps as the conjoined aircraft fly in harmony."

"The B-2's fuel port is on top of the fuselage, so a pilot can't tell how close the boom is to the bomber's receptacle. They watch lights under the tanker plane's fuselage that tell him to move forward, left, or right. Once the connection is made, a dashboard screen says "LATCH" and the fueling begins. As thousands of gallons of flow, the B-2s flight control computer routes it to the appropriate tanks as a way to preserve the bomber's center of gravity."

News reports said: "U.S. military strikes in Libya on Wednesday night have killed more than 80 fighters from ISIS, some of whom were believed to be actively plotting attacks in Europe, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday according to Reuters."

“We need to strike ISIL everywhere they show up. And that’s particularly true in view of the fact that we know some of the ISIL operatives in Libya were involved with plotting attacks,” Carter said.

A Pentagon spokesman said an initial assessment indicated the U.S. military strikes destroyed two camps southwest of Sirte, Libya, the Reuters report continued."

Col. Clint Zumbrunnen, the 305th Operations Group commander, said the 305th AMW keeps two aircraft on continuous alert just in case such a mission should come up. He said that, coupled with an efficient operations team, made sure the 305th OG would fly on time.

“The crews grow up here being conditioned for short-notice missions, to show up, plan and get the fuel to the fight,” Zumbrunnen explained. “Our current operations team is also particularly skilled at making operations happen on short notice. It makes us particularly well-equipped to do this sort of mission.”

Cole said he’s proud of the role his Airmen played in this mission.

“As always, they do an outstanding job when their nation calls upon them to do the tough tasks,” he said. “And it came off extremely well. It’s air refueling that puts the ‘global’ in ‘global strike.’”
The Libya strike is just one example of how the command facilitates the tanker war against ISIL, said Brig. Gen. Lenny Richoux, the 18th AF vice commander.

"The air bridge our planners and tanker crews create enable U.S. and allied strike aircraft to continuously hit (ISIL), or any enemy, no matter where they hide," Richoux said.

"Missions like this one are merely one of many executed every day,” he added. “The mobility enterprise conducts a massive amount of planning every single day, and we coordinate with customers around the globe for each mission. America's air refueling tanker (capabilities) are one of the key missions that set us apart from every other Air Force in the world. Everyone needs air refueling and we deliver it."

Although the 305th Air Mobility Wing at JBMDL performs such missions on a routine basis, such a dangerous, high-profile, successful mission that took many levels of coordination reemphasizes the need for the base to acquire a fleet of the new KC46A Pegasus - the next generation refueling tanker.
Since the KC will be used by all branches of the service, the joint base status is a real plus ensuring the continued mission of refueling military aircraft in flight.

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