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B-2 Spirits fly in support of RED FLAG-Alaska 22-3
Airmen from the 509th and 131st Bσmb Wings headed north with the B-2 Spirit stealth bσmber for training with Red Flag-Alaska 22-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, July 28-Aug. 12, 2022.
“This training provides an opportunity for the 509th and 131st to ensure the United States’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, while integrating with regional partners, their assets, and all of the capabilities they bring to the fight,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Howard, 110th Bσmb Squadron commander.
Like other large force exercises, RF-Alaska is heavily focused on near peer competition.
“When we decide to employ the B-2 in any exercise, it provides assurance to our allies and deterrence to potential adversaries,” Howard said.
About 2,200 personnel and more than 115 aircraft converged on the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex for this Pacific Air Forces field training exercise.
Like other iterations of Red Flag, the pilots trained against simulated aggressor squadrons. The exercise simulates the first 10 combat missions for new pilots and provides valuable practice for more experienced pilots.
“Red Flag-Alaska provides the 509th and 131st BW the unique ability to plan and execute in a realistic large force,” Howard said. “From the start of mission planning through debrief, we exercise almost every component of a combat sortie.”
He said it’s unlikely the B-2 would deploy for a combat mission that was not a long duration flight, so exercises like RF-Alaska present an opportunity to practice that capability
Because the B-2 specializes in long duration flights, using its low observable capabilities to penetrate enemy air defenses, one key to mission success is the B-2’s ability to refuel mid-flight, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Stiles, 509th Operations Group deputy commander.
The B-2 completed an aerial refueling with the KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueler for the first time during RF-Alaska, allowing the crew to complete their mission and return to base, all while avoiding bad weather, he said. That’s in addition to aerial refuelings with the KC-10 Extender and the KC-135 Stratotanker, all in the same mission.
“The ability to refuel with the KC-46 greatly increases our flexibility and ability to generate combat airpower anywhere in the world,” Stiles said.
Red Flag is held multiple times a year at Eielson AFB, Alaska and Nellis AFB, Nevada.