B-2s practice precision bombing on Guam
September 21, 2003
The Air Force’s stealthiest fliers were at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, last week to test their ability to strike targets thousands of miles away.
Two B-2 Spirit bombers and about 100 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., began arriving on Guam on Sept. 13 for Coronet Dragon 49, an exercise Air Force officials call routine “global power” bomber training.
“What we’re doing is showing our ability to forward-deploy these aircraft,” said 2nd Lt. Ed Gulick, a 509th Bomb Wing spokesman at Whiteman. “When we’re back at Whiteman, we’re pretty comfortable. We’re taking it down to the bare bones, [determining] what we need, who we need and how we’re going to do it.”
The bat-winged B-2s flew sorties over Farallon de Medinilla, an uninhabited, 200-acre island about 150 miles north of Guam.
The U.S. military leases the island from Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and uses it as a bombing range.
The bombers dropped inert, 2,000- pound, joint direct-attack munitions, Gulick said. The weapons are guided by a global-positioning system and moveable fins to strike within 24 feet of their targets.
Although only two aviators man the radar-evading planes, maintainers, weapon specialists, life support technicians, medical personnel and intelligence officers from Whiteman also deployed with the bombers, Gulick said.
“We’re getting our people used to forward deploying and setting up a base from scratch to be able to operate these aircraft,” Gulick said.
The crews practiced a quick turnaround: A day after the first aircraft arrived Wednesday, it flew three missions, Gulick said.
The second B-2 arrived Thursday, and both planes were to fly three missions Friday.
Andersen Air Force Base is a strategic military location in the Pacific and would possibly serve as a forward-deployed B-2 base in the event of a contingency in the region, Gulick said. The base is one of five forward-deployed, operating locations for B-2s worldwide.
The bombers and crews were expected to start leaving Guam on Sunday, Gulick said.
On Saturday, the public was invited to Andersen to view the aircraft from “a distance,” he said.