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B-1B bombers integrate with aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan on South China Sea mission

B-1B Lancers over USS Ronald Reagan
B-1B Lancers fly by the USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group in the Philippine Sea during a Bomber Task Force mission, July 21, 2020. Photo: US Navy

A pair of US Air Force B-1B Lancers flying from Andersen AFB carried out a long-range strategic Bomber Task Force mission in the South China Sea on July 21.

During the flight, the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron conducted a maritime integration operation with the USS Ronald Reagan carrier strike group in the Philippine Sea.

The mission comes after a B-52 Stratofortress carried out a similar exercise with aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea earlier this month.

The non-stop mission – made possible with support from KC-135s from the 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, and the dedication of 37th Aircraft Maintenance Unit – took the B-1s to the South China Sea and allowed the bomber to fly for 14 consecutive hours.

“The BTF construct provides the flexibility for our bombers to operate in any area of responsibility and enhances our readiness,” said Lt. Col. Lincoln Coleman, Commander of the 37th EBS. “It gives us the ability to project air power across the globe.”

Coleman noted these missions provide B-1 aircrews the opportunity to train with allies and partner nations they may work with in future operations.

“These missions strengthen our partnerships and increases our interoperability with a wide variety of military assets,” Coleman said. “Not only throughout the Department of Defense, but also with our allies across the globe.”

The Airmen from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. arrived at Andersen AFB July 17 to conduct BTF missions in the Indo-Pacific.

Before arriving in Guam, the B-1s conducted bilateral intercept training with Koku-Jieitai, or Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF), F-15Js over the Sea of Japan to enhance bilateral readiness and interoperability.

The USS Ronald Reagan is currently operating in the Philippine Sea after getting underway from its forward-deployed homeport in Japan in June this year.