US bomber fleet unifies under 8th Air Force, Air Force Global Strike Command leadership
By Maj. Phil Ventura, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 29, 2015
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Two bomb wings from the Air Combat Command ceremonially realigned Sept. 28 to Global Strike Command's 8th Air Force, bringing all of the service's bomber fleet under a single command.
The move joins B-1B Lancers from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas' 7th Bomb Wing and Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota's 28th BW, with B-52H Stratofortresses and B-2 Spirits already residing within Eighth Air Force, strengthening the U.S. Air Force's entire long range strike fleet.
"All five bomb wings and the long range strike capability they provide to our nation are stronger today as a result of this homecoming," said Maj. Gen. Richard Clark, the 8th Air Force commander.
While the transfer of authority involves 63 aircraft and approximately 7,000 personnel, most Airmen will not perceive an immediate change to the way they do business, according to the general. Instead, benefits will be realized over time as crosstalk increases and new opportunities arise for aviators and maintainers in the bomber community.
Still, as a career B-1B command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in the airframe and multiple assignments across the bomber community, Clark realizes that the transfer of commands has caused some apprehension.
"Change of any kind can be tough at first," Clark said. "However, this realignment makes practical sense and is grounded in our past as an air force."
Re-enforcing the general's point, both the 7th and 28th BWs have been assigned to the "Mighty Eighth" at several points -- the first time in the late 1940s and most recently as 2002, according to 8th Air Force Historian Lane Callaway.
At the strategic level, the consolidation will "provide a unified voice to maintain the high standards necessary in stewardship of our nation's bomber forces," Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in an April news release announcing the move.
In addition to the consolidation of the bomber fleet at 8th Air Force, the Global Strike Command is also taking lead on the Long Range Strike Bomber program from Air Combat Command and, with the arrival of Gen. Robin Rand in July, was elevated from a three to four star-led command.
Reflecting on all of these changes, Clark said, "Whether it is in the B-1, B-2, or B-52, it is a great time to be a bomber Airman. We are standing on the shoulders of giants and have great days ahead."