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
DYK: Aircraft have lifespans! Like humans, they require check-ups in the form of maintenance inspections to prolong their ability to fly. These "checks" prevent in-flight system failures which ultimately protects aircrew and passengers. Learn more from the 86th Maintenance Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany on what it takes to correct issues so aircraft can stay airborne.
WATCH: United States Air Force pilots talk about the importance of Exercise Saber Strike 18 as they refuel over the Baltic Sea on June 18, 2018. Saber Strike 18 is a long-standing training exercise designed to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and our allies. The training focused on improving land and air operational capabilities between the U.S. and our NATO allies. (U.S. Air National Guard video by: Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)
Check out some shots from yesterday's All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game in Washington, D.C. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals U.S. Army
Air Force and U.S. Army coed softball teams render military honors during the playing of the National Anthem during the All-Star Armed Services Classic Championship softball game, Washington, D.C., July 13, 2018. This event, part of MLB’s All-Star Week, pays tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. Washington Nationals
Great way to lead by example!
The United States Air Force is facing a pilot shortage. To help solve the challenge, the Aircrew Crisis Task Force was recently created to provide strategic direction and actionable recommendations to senior leaders on how to solve the aircrew manning crisis. FULL STORY: https://go.usa.gov/xUb3z
Your United States Air Force news: ✓ A B-52 crew assists in a search and rescue operation off the coast of Guam ✓ An Afghan pilot class graduates in the Czech Republic ✓ The Air Force is using innovative approaches to training pilots to make the process faster and more efficient
Now that’s how weathermen work! Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly weather reconnaissance missions into Tropical Storm Chris and Tropical Storm Beryl. http://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1569944/hurricane-hunters-fly-tropical-storms-beryl-chris/
The F-22 Raptor's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. Maintaining these aircraft can involve a bit of a learning curve. Airmen at KadenaAirBase use past technology to help learn how to work with the undefeated Raptor. FULL STORY: http://www.kadena.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1567295/hard-to-raptor-head-around/
Help us out! Can you caption this photo?
The B-52 Stratofortress has sniper pods that provide improved long-range target detection/identification and continuous stabilize surveillance for all missions, including close air support of ground forces. Air Force Global Strike Command crew members on a B-52 were able to spot a historic Pacific Island style canoe so that the U.S. Coast Guard could rescue the six passengers!
For the past 60 years, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has continually helped us maintain a technological edge against our advarsaries. Together with the Air Force Research Laboratory - AFRL, a fusion of ideas is leading to newly highlighted innovations.
SOUND ON! Celebrate freedom with the sound of freedom! Happy Independence Day!
During #ASC18, our #Airmen asked: Where are we today on developing new space operators & where will we be in the ne… https://t.co/a3IGP2gpnt
During #ASC18, our #Airmen asked: How do you see multi-domain command & control integrating with our allies?… https://t.co/GzyNIWKaWg
RT @AFResearchLab: Our team is showing off how fantastic our booth is this year! So come meet us at #booth601 for knowledge on what we do a…
RT @US_Stratcom: Gen Hyten: “All of our oaths start the same way, we swear an oath to the #Constitution, to a set of ideals written down on…
#ICYMI: @SecAFOfficial discussed the significance of the 70th Anniversary of the #BerlinAirlift during a commemorat… https://t.co/MLP7m1A1d1
.@SecAFOfficial: In his time, Billy Mitchell was the advocate for the #USAF we need. Now it's up to us -- all of us… https://t.co/5nfk096dpw
.@SecAFOfficial: I want to thank all of you for what you are doing to build a more lethal & ready #USAF, to field t… https://t.co/dVv7UUM3RI
.@SecAFOfficial: Over the past 6 months, #USAF acquisition has striped 56 yrs out of planned schedules in our acqui… https://t.co/6FgjTGUeVn
.@SecAFOfficial: By December of this year we will have closed that gap to zero. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: In September of 2016, the #USAF was short 4,000 maintainers. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: We have an obligation to our countrymen. To tell them, as those before us have done in their time,… https://t.co/xYAyI4NPe5
.@SecAFOfficial: The #USAF we need to implement the National Defense Strategy has 386 Operational Squadrons. #ASC18 https://t.co/tuoryyPTXF
.@SecAFOfficial: So, What will it take? 386. #ASC18
.@SecAFOfficial: The #USAF is too small for what the nation expects of us. 312 Operational Squadrons is not enough. #ASC18
#LIVE: @SecAFOfficial talks the "Air Force We Need" during the 2018 Air, Space and Cyber Conference. #ASC18https://t.co/F67IXy9mQQ