Ellsworth AFB B-1s return to European theater as part of latest BTF mission

B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base conducted a second long-range strategic Bomber Task Force mission in the European theater that included key interactions with U.S. assets as well as Danish and Polish forces, May 11.

The nearly 24-hour, nonstop mission covered more than 9,400 nautical miles and included integration and interoperability training with Danish F-16s overflying Bornholm Island, Denmark, and Polish F-16s and MiG-29s teaming up to fly over Warsaw, Poland, as well as flights over Latvia and Lithuania.

“Bomber Task Force operations like this provide tremendous opportunities for our B-1 aircrew to work and train with our allies and partners to enable seamless operations,” said Col. David Doss, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “This mission is a testament to the long-range strike capability of our nation’s bomber fleet regardless of conditions or basing location.”

A KC-135 Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refueling Wing, RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, provided key air refueling support that ensured the aircraft from Ellsworth AFB successfully accomplished the mission.

This is the fourth time in just over four weeks that B-1 aircrews from South Dakota conducted long-duration sorties that included operations in the Pacific and European theaters, demonstrating the shared commitment to global security and stability.

Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, officials noted that missions like this reaffirm America is committed to its mission in all domains (air, sea, land, space, cyber), and to the readiness of our allies and partners.

“The health of our team has been a top priority from the start of our COVID response and is key to sustaining missions like the Bomber Task Force,” said Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa commander. “Although mitigation efforts created challenges to overcome, our allies, partners and adversaries should make no mistake that we are ready, able and willing to deter and defend when called upon.”

Col. Chad Heyen, 28th Maintenance Group commander, noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique challenges for base aircraft maintainers, they have adjusted their operations and remain very capable of accomplishing their mission.

“Raider maintainers are some of the best maintainers the Air Force has to offer,” Heyen remarked. “No matter how bad the weather conditions are, whether it is day or night, or where the B-1 needs to go, Raider maintainers will move heaven and earth to ensure mission success.”

He added that B-1 maintainers are more “strategic-minded” than many of their counterparts on other airframes because they understand the powerful message of having a B-1 overhead.

“It lets our allies know we will be there if they need us, and lets our enemies know we can hold any target at risk – anytime, anywhere,” he said. “Raider maintainers make that happen. I could not be more proud of them and the work they do.”

Aviators attend a meeting

B-1B Lancer aviators assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., review mission plans at a step briefing prior to a Bomber Task Force mission to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility May 10, 2020. The U.S. maintains the capability, readiness, and will to defend interests globally, and will work closely with allies and partners to quickly and decisively respond to threats to partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Staker)

Plane takes off

A 34th Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer takes off from Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., for a Bomber Task Force mission to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility May 10, 2020. BTF missions are representative of the U.S. commitment to integrate with NATO and allied partners to ensure regional security. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Hailey Staker)

Aircraft taxis

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., taxis to a parking area following a nearly 24-hour non-stop Bomber Task Force mission to the U.S. European Command area of responsibility May 11, 2020. The U.S. maintains the capability, readiness, and will to defend interests globally, and will work closely with allies and partners to quickly and decisively respond to threats to partner nations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Quentin K. Marx)

Ellsworth AFB B-1s return to European theater as part of latest BTF mission

A B-1B Lancer from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., flies with a Polish F-16 during a long-range, long-duration training mission for Bomber Task Force Europe, May 11, 2020. Bomber Task Force missions are intended to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the collective defense of the NATO alliance and are a visible demonstration of the U.S. capability of extended deterrence. (Courtesy photo by Polish Air Force)

Ellsworth AFB B-1s return to European theater as part of latest BTF mission

A B-1B Lancer flies with a Danish F-16 during a training mission for Bomber Task Force Europe, May 11, 2020. Aircrews from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., took off on their long-range, long-duration Bomber Task Force mission to conduct interoperability training with NATO allies and partners. Operations and engagements such as these demonstrate and strengthen the shared commitment to global security and stability. (Courtesy photo by Danish Air Force)

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