Al Udeid unit keeps bombs ‘locked on target’ in AOR
By Senior Airman Kia Atkins, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 05, 2015
AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar (AFNS) -- Carrying the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory, the multi-mission B-1B Lancer is the backbone of America's long-range bomber force and is a key resource for strike operations throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
As a unit, the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, replaced the 9th EBS just shy of a month ago, and in that time they have flown just under 100 sorties.
"We continue to employ combat air power in support of the Combined Forces Air Component commander's objectives," said Lt. Col. Joseph Kramer, the 34th EBS commander. "We've dropped approximately 250 munitions on both deliberate targets, which are targets assigned prior to take off, and dynamic targets, which are targets passed to our Airmen while they are airborne."
B-1s based here are capable of supporting operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, or anywhere else they are needed. In recent months, the bombers have played a major role in helping Iraqi and Kurdish forces hold or retake key territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as destroying facilities and assets used by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The bomber's range and payload let it conduct multiple strikes with a large number of precision-guided munitions, which would require multiple combat sorties from other aircraft.
"We have accomplished a lot here so far, and we're definitely up for the challenge that supporting these missions require," said Capt. Amanda Hobbs, a 34th EBS pilot. "We are supporting multiple mission sets across two operations and those mission sets include close air support, armed overwatch and several deliberate targeting missions that are assigned via the air tasking order."
Operations in Iraq and Syria have provided new mission challenges for veteran B-1 aircrews in the theater. For some, this is their first experience in a combat zone.
"It's fun to watch first lieutenants and captains on their first deployment employ weapons for the first time in support of our nation's objectives," Kramer said. "This is my fourth time in the AOR and I've been in a different role each time. I started as a co-pilot and now I am the squadron commander, so seeing these lieutenants and captains step up to the task is really awesome. The first time I employed the B-1 in theater, we were dropping bombs on coordinates in a very static environment and now we're dropping bombs on moving vehicles by performing high-end tactics and using munitions such as the GBU-54 with our targeting pods to provide effects on time and on target."
The 34th EBS aircrews fly, on average, 12 hour missions and conduct numerous sorties to ensure that weapons are being dropped on time and on target. However, the aircraft wouldn't be able to get where they're needed to go if it wasn't for the help of the 34th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit maintainers.
"I couldn't be more proud of our maintenance team for producing that air combat power," Kramer said. "Our maintainers are the ones who are working really hard. The men and women of the 34th EAMU are out here every day to ensure the jets are green, enabling us to have on time takeoffs to support our objectives in the region."
The 34th EBS continues to fly air operations in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Freedom's Sentinel to meet military objectives.
"Every day it's an honor to see these Airmen at work," said Kramer, "and I know that we will continue to support operations in the area with persistence and vigilance."