Four B-1B Lancer bombers and nearly 200 airmen are now deep in the heart of Texas after a four-month deployment to Royal Air Force (RAF) Fairford, England. The 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron returned to Dyess Air Force Base, Texas on Wednesday.
The strategic bombers had supported a range of missions through their month and half-long rotation to the UK, and during that time integrated with forces throughout the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Northern Command theaters of operation.
“Maintaining peace and security across the globe requires a fighting force capable of maneuvering through various domains of warfare,” said Gen. Jeff Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa. “We are building the Agile Combat Employment framework alongside our allies and partners to launch a cohesive team, postured and ready, to respond to adversary aggression.”
The strategic bombers had taken part in sorties with NATO allies and partners throughout the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions, during which time the Cold War-era aircraft were able to enhance the coalition’s ability to respond to incursions threatening freedom of navigation and maneuver.
The Air Force announced that many missions focused on the employment of new tactics across each component, allowing for intercept and escort training between coalition air forces, providing close air support to ground forces, and executing counter-maritime missions throughout the theater.
The Bomber Task Force (BTF) rotation combined fifth-generation assets with the supersonic bombers by integrating with Norwegian Air Force F-35 Lightning II aircraft earlier this month over the Arctic region. The bombers and the F-35s executed an Allied targeting mission controlled by Norwegian Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
The B-1B Lancer bombers also advanced U.S. Cyber Command’s ability to counter threats by employing their Cyber Protection Team (CTP), and marked the first refueling via the for the innovative Versatile Integrating Partner Equipment Refueling kit.
The CPT’s support to the Bomber Task Force was also a first for USCYBERCOM and it represented an evolving relationship with U.S. Strategic Command.
“Cyber defense is essential to the success of our everyday military operations, and a key aspect of integrated strategic deterrence,” said Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, the commander of USCYBERCOM. “The Joint Force requires resilient, reliable networks and systems to achieve its missions, and U.S. Cyber Command is persistently engaging to defend in a global, contested cyber domain.”
The dynamic deployment of cyber forces is one way USCYBERCOM can enable a tightly synchronized defense of strategic bomber systems. Such activity bolsters resilience against cyberattacks by denying malicious cyber actors access to a critical platform.
“Protection of the Bomber Task Force mission is of the utmost importance in every domain, including cyberspace,” said Navy Rear Admiral Thomas E. Ishee, Director of Global Operations, U.S. Strategic Command. “As we seek to deter adversaries in an era of strategic competition, our cyber defenses must be persistent and evolving.”
While the bombers are now back in Texas, they certainly had an eventful time in their recent European deployment. It was a fitting deployment for an aircraft that is wrapping up its service with the U.S. Air Force.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.