U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers from the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, integrated with U.S. Naval forces in the Indo-Pacific region to conduct a naval mine exercise (MineX) off Okinawa during a training mission originating from Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, October 24. The B-1 bombers arrived at Guam on October 18 for a Bomber Task Force (BTF) deployment to the region.
BTF missions contribute to joint force lethality and deter aggression in the Indo-Pacific by demonstrating the bomber’s ability to rapidly deploy and operate anywhere in the world at any time in support of the National Defense Strategy and provide lethal precision global strike options for combatant commanders.
“MineX missions require close coordination and integration between the Navy and the Air Force,” said U.S. Air Force Colonel Chris McConnell, 37th Bomb Squadron commander. “As one of the aircraft capable of releasing mines, we have to work with our Navy partners to understand where those munitions need to be placed to meet the desired objectives.”
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device employed to destroy surface ships or submarines and provide a low-cost battlespace shaping and force protection capability. Mines may also be used to deny an enemy access to specific areas or channel them into specific areas.
Together, a team of 28th Munitions Squadron weapons loaders and sailors from Navy Munitions Command, Pacific Unit, Guam, armed the B-1B bombers with 21 Mark-62 Quickstrike mines, weighing 500 pounds each. After flying to an exercise area off Okinawa, the B-1s deployed the inert training mines into the water.
“Executing a MineX during a Bomber Task Force mission strengthens those ties through necessary integration training across the services to everyone involved in the process,” said Col. McConnell. “From the Navy personnel building and delivering the munitions, to our weapons loaders ensuring they are loaded on aircraft properly, the aircrew and planners will execute the mission and fly alongside our Navy partners and allies.”
This is the second time Andersen AFB has welcomed B-1B Lancers for a BTF mission this year. Four B-1B bombers deployed to Guam in June of this year where they conducted a multitude of missions. These missions included aerial integration with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and a hot pit refueling operation with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at RAAF Base Darwin.
“Bomber Task Force deployments and missions provide key assurances and cooperation with joint and partner allies in the region,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Mount, 37th Bomb Squadron director of operations. “The B-1 is an especially capable platform in this region, being able to travel large distances and bear significant firepower with precision and standoff munitions.”
The 37th EBS conducts several joint force exercises during BTF missions to enhance readiness and interoperability in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.