Bomber interoperability: from flyovers to operational application

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Savanah Bray
  • 53rd Wing
A B-1B Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress flew together on February 3, 2021 over the skies of Barksdale Air Force Base; this dissimilar formation wasn’t in preparation for the bomber Super Bowl flyover that would happen days later, but rather for an operational test sortie executed by the 337th and 49th Test and Evaluation Squadrons assessing bomber interoperability.
“A goal of these tests was to fly in formation to do practice stand-off weapons sorties so we can start building how we fly together, pass targets if we get new ones, and how we ultimately work together,” said Maj. Joseph Wilkinson, B-1 Instructor Weapon Systems Officer, 337th TES.
During these sorties, the B-1 and B-52 aircrews partially swapped, with a B-52 pilot and WSO on the B-1 and vice versa. This unique opportunity allowed the aircrew to gain a better understanding and perspective of one another as the two units develop tactics for bomber interoperability and stand-off weapon employment.
As the B-52 undergoes upgrades such as the Radar Modernization Program and implementing Link-16, this was a chance for aircrew to get hands-on with those programs while in the B-1, explained Capt. Josh Feres, B-52 Instructor Weapon Systems Officer, 49th TES.
This is just the first step, and “I know we’ll continue to work with the 337th TES and the B-1 community when we develop our own TTPs for these upgraded capabilities that we'll have in the future,” said Feres.
This week of testing was the first in a series of B-1 and B-52 interoperability sorties, as the bomber operational test community explores tactics development for a more agile bomber strike force that leverages the strengths of the different platforms.
“The intent behind this bomber test integration event went beyond the cross-learning benefit from the inter-fly opportunity,” said Col. Jamie Hernandez, commander, 53d Test Management Group, the testing “instead focused on developing, testing and vetting integrated tactics to provide the warfighter with the techniques and procedures and Combatant Commanders the option and flexibility to employ the B-1 and B-52 as an integrated and synergistic long range weapon force package.”
Though Air Combat Command units, the 49th and 337th Test and Evaluation Squadrons are part of the 53rd Test Management Group, the premier organization responsible for operational test and evaluation for all bomber and ISR platforms. The 53rd Wing provides tactical advantage to the warfighter at the speed of relevance. By testing new, operational capabilities, evaluating fielded capabilities, and optimizing electronic warfare capabilities, the 53rd Wing is bringing the future faster while answering the warfighter’s demands for integrated, multi-domain capabilities.