The first B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has completed a rotation to Hickman Air Base in Hawaii.
A single bomber along with about 200 airmen deployed to conduct long-range sorties with F-22s and other aircraft, UPI reported.
The Aug. 15 and Sept. 27 stint was part of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment, and while most of the time the 20 B-2s in the Air Force’s inventory operate from Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Mo., they do make regular rotations throughout the Indo-Pacific.
“The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment,” Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander, said in a statement. “Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future.
“The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable,” Adcock added. “Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”
In addition to aerial refueling with KC-135 Stratotankers of the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, a B-2 on Sept. 14 conducted a hot-pit refueling. The process involves landing and continuing to run the aircraft’s engines while it is refueled, which allows pilots to immediately take off after refueling.
“Hot-pit refueling allows us to maximize time in the air versus on the ground,” Adcock said in a press release last month. “It saves turnaround time. Practicing this technique helps us ensure our effectiveness as a force and keeps us ready, capable and lethal.”
Analysis: While the B-2 has global reach, thanks to in-flight refueling and an inherently long range, forward-deploying cuts down response times to crises dramatically.
B-2s have already been deployed to Guam and other parts of the Indo-Pacific region. Given that the long-term strategic focus in that part of the world is China, the Hawaii exercises make perfect sense.
At the B-2’s high subsonic speed, it still takes 8-10 hours to fly to Hawaii from mid-Missouri, and in today’s fast-moving threat environment, that can be a long time, considering it would still take several hours to deliver weapons to target in, say, a conflict with China — which is really at the heart of this deployment.
Slowly but surely, the Pentagon is expanding its response options to the growing Chinese threat. No doubt Beijing is taking notice.