B-1B at Boca Chica


By Dario Leone
Apr 16 2017
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Thanks to the capabilities of its synthetic aperture radar the B-1 “Bone” is the perfect tool for finding “smugglers” using “go-fast” boats across the ocean

A B-1B Lancer strategic bomber from the 489th Bomb Group and 7th Bomb Wing has been used to track illicit drug traffickers, or “smugglers,” from South America to the U.S. out of Boca Chica Naval Air Station, Key West, Fla. March 20 – 24, 2017.

The B-1 or “Bone” was tasked to assist the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-South) in countering smugglers in the East Pacific and West Caribbean Ocean.

Thanks to the capabilities offered by its synthetic aperture radar (SAR), which is capable of tracking, targeting and engaging moving vehicles, the Bone is the perfect tool for finding smugglers using “go-fast” boats across the ocean, said Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland, 307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs in his article Bad to the Bone: drug interdiction from 30,000 feet.

“The 345th and 9th bomb squadrons are working with JIATF-South to identify boats that are moving drugs from Central America up through Mexico,” explained Lt. Col Michael McClanahan, 345th Bomb Squadron commander. “While you tend to think of the B-1 as only doing bombing missions, we’re not employing that tactic this week. But, we are using the varying sensors on the B-1, such as the targeting pod and the ground moving target radar capability to identify boats on the water then relaying that information to the to the Coast Guard or some of the other players operating during this mission.”

The experience of the 489th Bomb Group and 7th Bomb Wing provided a better working environment for the mission.

“We have all of these different working parts; each bringing their own strengths to the mission,” Col. Justin Boldenow, 7th Operations Group commander said. “At Dyess we have a combination of both active duty and reserve airmen from the 489th Bomb Group and the 7th Bomb Wing. That total force integration helps us to communicate not only within our own units across the Air Force, it gives us the tools to integrate with other agencies to accomplish a mission such as this.”

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. B-1B Lancer 28th FW, 34th BS Thunderbirds, EL/86-129 / 2005

The combined unit performed more than 10 sorties during this operation, where the crews searched more than 3.2 million square miles of ocean and assisted in confiscating more than 4,500 kilos of drugs.

“This type of mission means a lot more to us than a typical training mission,” pinted out Tech. Sgt. Brian Luke, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “I don’t like drugs and I want to keep them out of my community. We are not here to have fun like other people visiting Key West, we’re here to do a mission and everyone we have brought with us are the right people for this mission. Everyone from the lowest airmen to the highest rank have been dedicated to what we are doing here with the JIATF-South.”

However this is not the first time that the Bone is used to hunt drug traffickers: in fact as we have already explained, in Dec. 2016 B-1Bs were already deployed to Naval Air Station Key West’s Boca Chica where they spent more than 350 flight hours in helping with confiscation of more than 5800 kilos of drugs (specifically cocaine), which was equivalent to $175 million.

Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.
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