March 12, 2009 (by SrA Ryan Whitney) - For the first time, F-22 Raptors and B-2 Spirits, the only stealth platforms in the Air Force's current inventory, are deployed outside the continental United States to Andersen AFB, Guam, showcasing the U.S. commitment to peace and stability in the region.
An F-22 Raptor taxis at Andersen AFB while a B-2 Spirit from the 509th BW, 13th BS Whiteman AFB, waits for clearance on March 12th, 2009. The Raptors are deployed from Elmendorf AFB to the 90th EFS at Andersen for a three month deployment as the Pacific's Theater Security Package. [USAF photo by MSgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald]
Fourteen F-22s and more than 260 Airmen assigned to the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are deployed here from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, and four B-2 Spirits and more than 270 people assigned to the 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron are deployed here from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.
Although this is the first time these aircraft have deployed together to Guam, both units are part of regularly scheduled Air Expeditionary Force rotations in place since 2003. These particular deployments had been in the works for months before their arrival to support U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Package and Continuous Bomber Presence missions.
According to Lt. Col. Orlando Sanchez, the 90th EFS commander, deployed here since mid-January, the location of Andersen provides a unique training opportunity.
During his time as an instructor at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Colonel Sanchez said the two-week mission employment phase there provided students the opportunity to fly with the B-2s, but not integrate and work as closely with them as they do here.
"During exercises, most aircrews don't get the face-to-face time with the B-2 aircrew due to its long range capabilities," he said. The B-2 is capable of flying approximately 6,000 miles without refueling support. During most exercises the B-2 participates in, it flies to the exercise airspace and, when the mission is complete, returns to Whiteman.
"Here at Andersen, we have the advantage of getting to come back to the same place and debrief face-to-face with the B-2 aircrew and see how effective the training was that day," Colonel Sanchez said. "That way we can assess the strengths and weakness of our training and tactics for that day. Being able to do this on a daily basis better prepares us for any situation we might encounter."
During these training missions, both units operate as if it were a real world event, in order to better prepare for any possible situation. Though the missions were similar when the B-52 Stratofortress' from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was deployed here, the planning is very different.
"The B-2 brings a very unique capability here, with a completely different set of weaknesses and strengths than what the B-52s brought," Colonel Sanchez said said. "So though the missions will be similar as when we flew with the B-52s, it will look a lot different flying with another stealth platform."
Airmen of the 90th EFS will also get the opportunity to strengthen and develop the tactics used with the Air Force's newest fighter, according to Lt. Col. Leland Bohannon, 13th EBS director of operations.
"The biggest thing about this deployment is we have two low observable [stealth] platforms on base at the same time, which is exciting because we are now going to be able to integrate these two platforms on a day-to-day basis in some awesome airspace, "Colonel Bohannon said. "The upcoming months will be a great opportunity to build new tactics, techniques and procedures for the new aircraft."
The deployment will also give the Airmen of the 90th EFS an opportunity to learn from a more senior and experienced stealth unit, and will help maintenance personnel learn the challenges associated with a low-observable stealth platform, Colonel Sanchez said.
"Everyone in the squadron is really excited about the opportunity to work with another stealth platform for the next couple months," said Colonel Sanchez.