HomeNewsArticle Display

Desert Storm: 2nd Bomb Wing leads the air war

A B-52G Stratofortress aircraft takes off on its return flight to the United States after being deployed during Operation Desert Storm.

A B-52G Stratofortress aircraft takes off on its return flight to the U.S. after being deployed during Operation Desert Storm. (Courtesy photo)

The 596th Bomb Squadron paved the way for American forces to defeat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose troops had invaded neighboring Kuwait. Members of the 596th participated in Operation Senior Surprise, known as “Secret Squirrel” to the operators who would fly the mission. The bombers traveled more than 14,000 nautical miles non-stop and was the longest combat mission in history at the time.

The 596th Bomb Squadron paved the way for American forces to defeat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose troops had invaded neighboring Kuwait. Members of the 596th Bomb Squadron participated in Operation Senior Surprise, known as “Secret Squirrel” to the operators who would fly the mission. The bombers traveled more than 14,000 nautical miles nonstop and was the longest combat mission in history at the time. (Courtesy photo)

A KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft boom operator refuels a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft, center, during air operations for Operation Desert Storm over Southwest Asia Feb. 1, 1991. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Putnam/Released)

A KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator refuels a B-52 Stratofortress during air operations for Operation Desert Storm over Southwest Asia Feb. 1, 1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chris Putnam)

Staff Sgt. Brian D. Land checks a .50-caliber tail turret gun on a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft during Operation Desert Shield.

Staff Sgt. Brian D. Land checks a .50-caliber tail turret gun on a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft during Operation Desert Shield. (Courtesy photo)

A B-52G Stratofortress aircraft is serviced on the flight line prior to flying a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with M-117 750-pound bombs.

A B-52G Stratofortress is serviced on the flightline prior to flying a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft was armed with M-117 750-pound bombs. (Courtesy photo)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- In the early morning of Jan. 16, 1991, the 2nd Bomb Wing deployed seven B-52G Stratofortresses and crews to Iraq in a single, secret mission that would mark the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

This opening salvo, launched by the 596th Bomb Squadron, paved the way for American forces to defeat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose troops had invaded neighboring Kuwait. Strategic Air Command called the classified 35-hour mission Operation Senior Surprise, known as “Secret Squirrel” to the operators who would fly the mission. The bombers traveled more than 14,000 nautical miles nonstop and was the longest combat mission in history at the time.

Twenty-five years later, many of the “Secret Squirrel” aircrews continue to serve the 2nd BW.

"The 2nd BW's warrior Airmen who delivered the opening punch of the first Gulf War stand tall in our unit's storied history," said Col. Kristin Goodwin, the 2nd BW commander. "While technology and tactics evolve over time, the bravery, determination and skill demonstrated during that mission are timeless and continues to inspire everyone who wears our wing patch."

Col. Trey Morriss, the 307th Bomb Wing vice commander, was a new captain when he served as a B-52G electronic warfare officer during the “Secret Squirrel” mission.

“The ‘Secret Squirrel’ mission was used to blind Iraq by eliminating certain power and communication nodes throughout the country. This severely hampered their response in the initial phase of the war,” Morriss said. “We proved to U.S. citizens, our allies, coalition partners, and even to our enemies that we will do what we say we’re going to do. In doing so, we solidified the B-52 in the realm of long-range strike capability.”

During Desert Storm, the 2nd BW employed a new weapon against Iraq: the AGM-86C, Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile. This marked the first time GPS had ever been used to guide a missile toward a target. On Jan. 17, 1991, the B-52 crews launched 35 CALCMs, rendering Saddam’s forces and striking key points of communication infrastructure.

“The B-52 provides a great first-strike capability in any conventional war,” Morriss said. “It gives us the ability to degrade the enemy with the first attack and press in with other capabilities. We also proved to the world that we were on the threshold of a new type of modern warfare with GPS-guided weapons. The results speak for themselves.”

One “Secret Squirrel” copilot, Russell Mathers, faced unpredictable risks when flying to the Middle East, but maintained confidence in his training. Those risks included potential enemy action, landing into friendly territory that may not have been prepared to accommodate U.S. military aircraft or any number of system failures within the aircraft.

“The risks were the unknown,” Mathers said. “We didn’t know if anyone was going to take a shot at us.”

After Desert Storm, SAC learned valuable lessons about long-range combat missions, according to Mathers.

“What we learned as a bomber community is that the bomber is still a huge viable weapons system. We also learned how difficult it is physiologically, to fly these missions and prepare the human body to fly 30 or 40 hour missions,” said Mathers.

Once “Secret Squirrel” kicked off Desert Storm operations, the B-52 continued playing a critical role throughout the campaign. Nearly 70 B-52G crews flew 1,741 missions totaling 15,269 combat hours during which 27,000 tons of munitions were dropped.

Jim Bowles, an Air Force Global Strike Command program analyst, served as a B-52 instructor pilot and aircraft commander during Desert Storm. Bowles said he was fortunate to fly with a copilot, radar navigator electronic warfare officer, and gunner, all of whom were instructors in their respective duties.

“We knew our aircraft, and we knew our training. While there was some apprehension about going into combat and the potential for not coming home, there was also a confidence because we knew we could do our mission. When I look back on Desert Storm, it feels like yesterday. It’s a memory deep within myself and my family. It’s a defining moment that shaped me for the rest of my Air Force career.”

For Bowles, mission success during Desert Storm isn’t only a victory for “Secret Squirrel” aircrews, but for the Airmen and their families who provided critical support at home while combat continued overseas.

“When those bomber crews go off to do their mission, they need the support of every Airman behind them making sure they can get their job done,” he said. “Without the support of the Airmen and their families, it’s a lot more difficult when conducting your mission downrange.”

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @HQ_AFMC: To stay ahead of our enemies, our teams at the @AFResearchLab continuously #innovate to keep the fight 'unfair.' Listen to the…
RT @419fw: Sometimes Santa needs a little help from the @USAFReserve. We love the giving spirit of our Airmen at Christmas time! https://…
.@GenDaveGoldfein: "You are valued. We need you. Your family needs you. The Air Force needs you." https://t.co/jioda8dKvY
RT @SecAFOfficial: We thank Matt Donovan for 40+ yrs of dedication to the #USAF. His leadership will continue to be vital to taking care of…
RT @DeptofDefense: For three decades, Ara Shishmanian served his country in the @USAFReserve. He also serves in the classroom. Press ▶️ to…
RT @AETCommand: #BehindTheScenes - Command Chief Master Sergeant training course students at @HQAirUniversity learn about leadership, commu…
RT @thejointstaff: Watch today's change of responsibility ceremony, hosted by #GenMilley, live @ 10 a.m. EST on Twitter. @SEAC_Troxell wil…
RT @HQ_AFMC: 📽️We're back to the @Afresearchlab for Day 10 of #24DaysAFMC. This year they tested a state-of-the-art rocket #engine preburne…
RT @16AF_AFCYBER: The holiday season is a prime time for online thieves to take advantage of weaknesses in shoppers' devices to extract per…
RT @USAFCENT: ALWAYS READY | Members of the 823d Expeditionary Base Defense Squadron test their combat life-saving skills during a medical…
Nearly 10,000 participants from around the world took part in the 2019 Military World Games in Wuhan, China. And… https://t.co/CRYacyFtEJ
Ever heard of the rule of 0-0-1-3? No. Well it means to have zero alcohol if you're underage, zero drinks if you're… https://t.co/7bNRnhYuWS
RT @HQ_AFMC: #Readiness was on display by our @AFResearchLab teams during a live-virtual-constructive training simulation, enabling #Airmen
RT @AFWERX: We can't wait for 2020: The @USAirForce Advanced Manufacturing Olympics is slated for July 8-9 in Salt Lake City & will bring t…
RT @AirNatlGuard: “The Silver Flag training sites provide our Airmen with real-world scenarios to reinforce our Air Force Specialty Code sk…
RT @US_TRANSCOM: Watch a @usairforce KC-10A refuel, and be refueled during same mission in support of @CJTFOIR. #Togetherwdeliver #NKAWTG #…
RT @AETCommand: Transforming the way we learn with technology is one of our key priorities here in the First Command! Check out the photos…