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Ellsworth and Minot aircrews participate in inaugural aerial exercise

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. (AFNS) -- Aircrews from the 23rd Bomb Squadron, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota and the 34th Bomb Squadron, here, participated in the inaugural integrated standoff weapons exercise Aug. 11-14, at the Powder River Training Complex, South Dakota.

The purpose of the multi-day exercise with B-1B Lancer bombers and several of Minot's B-52 Stratofortresses was to compare and improve the tactics, techniques and procedures associated with the airframes while employing standoff weapons.

"The overall goal was to learn from each other in how we use our standoff weapons to determine the most effective ways to employ these weapons with each other," said Capt. Christopher McConnell, a 28th Operations Support Squadron wing weapons officer.

Standoff weapons are munitions, such as missiles, that are able to be launched from hundreds of miles away at a target.

"The standoff weapon capability of our aircraft is a critical asset for us to have," said Capt. Joseph Manglitz, a 23rd Bomb Squadron B-52 pilot. "It's important for us to become experts on their employment training tactics."

During the exercise the squadrons flew seven B-1 and eight B-52 sorties in the Powder River airspace where aircrews focused on employing standoff weapons such as joint air-to-surface missiles, conventional air-launched cruise missiles and miniature air-launched decoys.

Manglitz said aviators are usually only familiar with the tactics and capabilities specific to their aircraft.

"When we participate in exercises like this with multiple platforms, we are forced to think about weapons and tactics in a new way, which ultimately makes us all better combat aviators," he said.

Prior to flying the training sorties, all aircrew members met to develop an integrated employment plan that played to the strengths of each airframe.

"In real-world scenarios we will be expected to know each other capabilities and how we can utilize weapons from each platform in order to better achieve a commander's intent or how best to kill the target and ensure that our weapons make it to the target area at the right time," McConnell said.

Following mission planning, the aircrews flew together in the Powder River airspace and put the plan into action. After the flights, the crews met again to debrief and address what went well and what needed improvement.

"The event is new this year and we hope to make it a semi-annual or annual exercise between the bomber communities with either real-world flying or within our simulator weapon systems trainers," McConnell said.