Missions such as these offer great training opportunities with a satisfying impact at the end of the day
According to the article Dyess Bombers aide in SOUTHCOM drug interdiction written by Senior Airman Shannon Hall
7th Bomb Wing, drug traffickers have a new enemy.
The B-1, commonly referred to as the “Bone,” is exceptionally versatile and has a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) that is capable of tracking, targeting and engaging moving vehicles as well as self-targeting and terrain-following modules. It was these reasons, and more, which made the “Bone” the perfect aircraft to assist Joint Interagency Task Force South’s (JIATF South) mission to detect and monitor illicit drug trafficking in the air and maritime domains in Latin America.
“Dyess has participated in this operation multiple times in the past 14 months,” said Delta, 9th Bomb Squadron pilot. “The B-1 mission is to aid JIATF South, which is a U.S. Southern Command task force, to help counter illicit drug trafficking in the East Pacific and West Caribbean Ocean.”
In total, the 9th BS has dedicated more than 350 flight hours to this operation. Within those hours they have assisted in confiscating more than 5800 kilos of drugs, specifically cocaine, which totals out to more than $175 million. They have searched more than 3.2 million square miles of ocean and detained 27 people and 8 vessels.
“Some people might be able to understand why people do what they do over there, but that’s why we do what we do here,” said Clutch, 9th Bomb Squadron weapons officer. “We understand the impact drugs can have on a country and there’s a reason we are here to fly the B-1 and use it in a multitude of ways. This is just one of the ways we operate, and we do it well.”
For this particular mission, the B-1 crews use a Non-Traditional Surveillance and Reconnaissance platform that consists of utilizing sensors on the aircraft to locate and track suspected criminal vessels. The JIATF South’s Joint Operations Center at Naval Air Station Key West, Fla. assists with the illuminations of suspected vessels, and coordinates with B-1 operators and crew members for direct eye in the sky.
“The operator, known as the liaison officer, provides data such as location and last known traveling direction so the aircrews can then search, locate and track the vessel,” Clutch said. “This sequence goes back and forth, sometimes using other assets for assistance, for the duration of the 12-hour flight.”
The results were tremendous and the increased Air Force support alone has been extremely beneficial. Moreover, the successful integration of airpower, cyber, space assets and interagency demonstrates a unique capability in executing command and control in multi-domain operations, stated a JIATF South representative.
“JIATF South leadership, not only requested B-1 support, but they specifically requested the 9th Bomb Squadron,” Delta said. “But, this mission is only successful because of the integration of Air Force assets, and the stress that we as a team put on our adversaries.”
Although the 9th BS plays a huge role in this operation, they are not alone. Three different MAJCOMS, multiple units from across the country, more than 7 different aircraft from all military branches and even other partner nations have assisted JIATF South in facilitating illicit drug trafficking interdiction in support of national security.
Missions such as these offer great training opportunities with a satisfying impact at the end of the day. Even though the B-1 was first used for combat support, it has come a long way and will be used in a multitude of flying missions daily in support of continuing operations.
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Alexander Guerrero, Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Cody R. Babin and Staff Sgt. Richard Ebensberger / U.S. Air Force