Long range strike operations in Libya

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  • By Staff Sgt. Megan Friedl
  • Defense Media Activity
Brig. Gen. John Nichols, 509th Bomb Wing commander, along with aircrew directly involved with the Libya Raid, discussed their actions during the raid, long range strike operations and the B-2 Spirit during a panel at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference, Sept. 19, 2017.

Projecting global reach and global strike capability is a complex operation requiring vigilance from maintenance to aircrews who ensured two B-2s from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, flew a 33-hour mission to North Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, Jan. 18, 2017.

The pilots successfully dropped 85 precision-guided munitions, killing approximately 100 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists during the mission to destroy the ISIS training camps.

“It was certainly a global power mission,” said Nichols. “Thanks to our [Air Mobility Command] partners; there were five total air refuelings.”

Part of global power is the Air Force’s ability to strike an enemy anywhere in the world, on short notice.

Maj. Christopher Conant, Odyssey Lightning B-2 pilot and Air Force strategic-policy fellow, emphasized the teamwork required to make the mission possible.

“The key takeaway; I think we’re trying to communicate is exactly what the chief and secretary said the last two days; this orchestra we call air power is not easy,” said Conant. “We make it look easy, but it’s not.”

Since August 2014, Airmen have executed more than 150 sorties daily and conducted more than 70 percent of all coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets.

“None of these weapons are actually built and ready to go,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Mullins, 131st Bomb Wing Maintenance weapons section chief. “They’re very specific to what the mission and the target is.”

Mullins described the complexity of making this mission happen.

“They actually got the bombs out in just a few hours, which is a pretty amazing feat,” said Mullins. "They can build one of these weapons in about five minutes. It also takes additional five minutes to load one of these weapons.”

While all of this was happening, Whiteman AFB was in the middle of a nonconventional maintenance cycle.

“At no point were we going to fail at either mission,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Nixon, 509th Operations Support Squadron B-2 target intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge. “We succeeded on both sides. We do not fail.”