Pirates Beware: Air Force Bomber Engages Maritime Targets
Since its introduction to the Air Force in 1986, the B-1B Lancer has been the backbone of the bomber fleet because of its speed, payload and continuously upgraded capabilities.
On Sept. 4, a single B-1 from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron took off from Dyess Air Force Base, with the Gulf of Mexico as its destination. The bomber participated in a maritime tactics development and evaluation in an effort to improve and better understand the aircraft's capabilities. During the evaluations, the B-1 dropped a total of six munitions to include a laser guided 500-pound bomb GBU-54, as well as 500 and 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
"Many of the dynamic targeting skills we've refined over the past decade on land are directly applicable in the maritime environment," said Capt. Alicia Datzman, 337th Tactics and Evaluation Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. "This is the perfect opportunity to validate and refine these tactics."
The B-1's role in the tactics development and evaluation was to detect, target and engage small boats – similar to skiffs that pirates use - using currently fielded and available weapons, released in all weather conditions.
Gomez said that B-1s are also prime aircraft, capable of protecting important assets at sea and patrolling allied shipping lanes, because of its speed and ability to stay in the air longer than most aircraft. "Future wars might not all be on land, some may include surface combat, so we are evaluating the way we employ the B-1 to aid in completing the mission," Gomez said.
Gomez stated that one of the most useful tools the 337th TES has in its arsenal is the TD&E. During a TD&E, data is collected in flight of all information contributing to the mission. Once completed, the aircrew examines data from the mission to determine how efficiently they tracked, engaged and destroyed the target. From there, the 337th TES develops future tactics, techniques and procedures manuals using the knowledge they've gained.
"Success in these sorts of tests gives our sister services confidence that the B-1 can get the effects they need to meet combatant commander requirements both over land and sea. With the right assets supporting us, this platform is unstoppable," Gomez said. "We can't do it all alone, but by working with others, the B-1 is capable of doing so much to support our nation."