BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. – February got off to a busy start for Air Force Global Strike (AFGSC) Command, with a Bomber Task Force mission to the Indo-Pacific Theater, and an unarmed Minuteman III developmental test launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, taking place within days of one another.
Airmen demonstrated that bomber and intercontinental ballistic missile capabilities are ready to respond by displaying two-thirds of the U.S. nuclear triad, spanning two ends of the Pacific.
This simultaneous focus on mission execution, readiness and modernization represents AFGSC efforts to focus on the return of great power competition as explained in the National Defense Strategy.
Bomber Task Force Integration
A B-52H from the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron from Minot AFB, North Dakota, currently deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, as part of Continuous Bomber Presence operations, joined with a B-52H from another squadron assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot, on a BTF mission Feb. 3 to conduct bilateral and theater familiarization training. The B-52s joined with 13 Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self Defense Force, or JASDF) F-2s, four F-4s and 28 F-15s, and six U.S. Air Force F-16s.
Bomber aircrews taking part in these operations are consistent with a long-standing and well-known U.S. freedom of navigation policies that are applied to our military operations around the world.
“Bomber Task Force missions build proficiency and confidence by familiarizing aircrews with air bases, airspace and operations in various Geographic Combatant Commands’ areas of responsibility,” said Maj. Gen. James Dawkins, Jr., Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander. “Additionally, these missions offer our Airmen the opportunities to train in a joint environment with partner and allied counterparts that will greatly enhance their readiness to respond to any potential crisis or challenge worldwide.”
Minuteman III Developmental Test Launch
Immediately following the BTF mission, members of AFGSC’s missile community participated in an unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile developmental test launch Feb. 5, validating the safety, security and reliability of the Minuteman III ICBM force.
Airmen from the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Montana, the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, and the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, were selected for the task force to support the test launch.
Developmental test launches use a spare missile from storage to validate flight worthiness of new or replacement components in an as-near-to operational environment as possible. Flight Test Unit 2 is the second of four FTUs scheduled over the next several years to validate replacement components that will ensure continued Minuteman III viability. FTU 1 occurred in February of 2019.
The Ground Based Strategic Deterrent will replace the Minuteman III ICBM.
“Developmental testing is vital for both modernization and sustainment of the ICBM weapon system,” said Col. Matthew Dillow, 20th Air Force vice commander. “Continued unarmed ICBM test launches are essential to ensure reliability of the weapons system until it is replaced by the Ground Base Strategic Deterrent in the mid-2030s. In addition, we are testing new components that will also be used on the GBSD once it is fielded.”
The long-range precision nuclear and conventional strike capability, resident in the nation’s ICBM and bomber units in AFGSC, have central roles throughout all phases of competition and conflict. AFGSC operates the only allied ICBM and bomber fleets in the world, and conducting regular exercises and tests of the weapon systems allows the command to continue providing security and stability for the U.S. and its allies.