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Deployed B-52s complete counter-sea exercise

from the official website of the US air force
by Senior Master Sgt. Don Perrien
36th Expeditionary Operations Group

1/18/2007 – ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNEWS) — Usually, naval
mines are placed at sea by dedicated ships traveling days from their
home port. However, Airmen deployed to Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base
showcased the B-52 Stratofortress bomber’s capability to quickly and
accurately deliver naval mines while flying at 1,000 feet above the
sea.

The 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Minot Air Force
Base, N.D., completed a five-day counter-sea exercise Jan 19, dropping
100 inert mines into the Pacific Ocean over the Marianas Trench.

“This exercise allowed us to hone our wartime flying skills, and
practice the techniques we would use in an actual combat mission,”
said Capt. Doug Farley, 23rd EBS Training Flight commander.

During the exercise, the aircrews arrived at their B-52s before dawn.
The aircrew performed pre-flight inspections by flashlight and under
the glow of the runway lights.

Just after sunrise, the heavy bombers headed north from Guam and met
with KC-135 tanker aircraft from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling
Squadron to practice aerial refueling procedures. The 506th EARS
tankers from MacDill and Grand Forks Air Force Bases trained with the
bombers prior to the mining exercise.

“Aerial refueling is one of the most perishable skills for pilots and
is an important force-multiplier for the projection of air power,”
Captain Farley said. “During this deployment, we have had great
support from the tanker community and have been able to practice this
important skill set on just about every flight, helping our pilots to
maintain their proficiency.”

Once the B-52s had a full tank of gas, the aircrews began their
counter-sea mission. First, the bombers performed a preliminary safety
clearing pass over the target area to ensure no unauthorized surface
vessels would be endangered during the actual mining runs.

“We actually had a couple of ships that looked like they were heading
into the mining area,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Godinez, a B-52 electronic
warfare officer assigned to the 23rd EBS. “We took a look at them, and
then made sure they left the area before we started our run.”

Once the area was clear, the B-52s prepared for low-level mining passes.

Skimming the ocean at approximately 1,000 feet and reaching speeds
near 400 mph, the B-52s released their payloads — Mk-62 “Quickstrike”
inert aerial mines. These mines are just like their operational
counterparts, except the inert mines have a core of cement instead of
an explosive charge. To the aircrews, the inert mines were a perfect
simulation of the real thing.

“When we released the mines, you could feel the plane pull back as
they released,” said Lieutenant Godinez. “It was a real challenge
flying these missions in the low-level environment.”

One of the keys for success of the five-day exercise was in the
maintenance of the assigned mission aircraft. All of the B-52s
assigned to the mining missions departed on schedule without a
significant mechanical write up.

“I think every crew chief looks forward to launching our B-52s for
these types of missions, and the aircrews trust us to provide them
with a mission-ready aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Downs, a
crew chief assigned to the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance
Squadron. “The weapons crews did a good job with the inert mines, and
it made our jobs pretty easy for these missions.”

The counter-sea exercise concluded a five-month deployment to Andersen
AFB in which the 23rd EBS flew over 200 missions, logged nearly 1,600
hours and dropped 750 munitions.

“I am extremely proud of the professional manner in which our Airmen
completed this mining exercise as well as their overall performance
during our deployment to Guam,” said Col. Tom Gilbert, 36th
Expeditionary Operations Group commander. “Our Airmen continue to
display the versatility and capability of the B-52 on a daily basis,
and the importance of maintaining a continuous bomber presence in the
Asia-Pacific region.”

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