Today the B-52 Stratofortress is able to employ nearly 50 types of various munitions as recently proved by Airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB during exercise Combat Hammer.
The impressive photos in this post prove that the mighty B-52 Stratofortress is still kicking ass almost 50 years after Operation Linebacker II (and almost 70 years after the first YB-52 performed its maiden flight), the best-known B-52 operations of the Vietnam War.
The top photo of the main image of this post was taken at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB), Guam, during the Vietnam War and features M117 750 lb (340 kg) bombs in front of US Air Force (USAF) B-52D Stratofortress bombers.
The second shot featured in the main image instead was taken on Mar. 10, 2021 and shows a USAF B-52 being loaded with bombs again and apparently nothing has changed: but a closer look reveals that this time the aircraft is a B-52H and the munitions are GBU-31s which make the mighty Big Ugly Fat F****r (BUFF) even more lethal. Moreover, besides the JDAMs, today the bomber is able to employ nearly 50 types of various munitions as recently proved by Airmen from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB during exercise Combat Hammer, Mar. 8-12.
A week-long evaluation of the wing’s capacity to generate, load and employ conventional weapons on target, Combat Hammer measured the effectiveness and lethality of B-52’s and Barksdale’s combat capabilities.
“Combat Hammer is different from other exercises as it tests and evaluates the complete chain of the weapons system from the munitions storage facility, to the aircraft, to the target,” said Maj. Ellen Williams, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer, to Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs, for his article Second Bomb Wing executes Combat Hammer. “The results measure our level of effectiveness.”
Combat Hammer also included the employment of the Miniature Air-Launched Decoy (MALD) missile, a weapon used to deter enemy anti-aircraft systems and not typically used in training scenarios.
“The MALD is a decoy that is launched from the aircraft as it approaches contested airspace and flies to multiple predetermined aerial coordinates which are loaded prior to flight,” said Master Sgt. Richard Capuano, 2nd Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance section chief. “The MALD tricks enemy radars to think the MALD is an aircraft or fleet of aircraft and the enemy’s anti-aircraft weaponry targets the MALD, if they are able, instead of targeting the B-52.”
While aircrews routinely train with various types of conventional munitions, the MALD is a weapon normally restricted to combat.
“Normally, MALD employment is restricted to combat employment, but Combat Hammer permits familiarization and testing for the intense logistics involved in getting the system ready for flight all the way through to employment,” said Capt. Ethan Simantel, 96th Bomb Squadron director of training. “The aircrew were able to perform ground and airborne weapon checks, release an actual MALD, then develop improved tactics and procedures for any future employment.”
Not only did the exercise give Airmen the opportunity to train and execute realistic scenarios, it also showcased that the Airmen and capabilities of the 2nd BW are more lethal and ready than ever.
“Most impressive was the eight for eight sortie generation and fly rate, something rarely seen across all combat platforms, not just bombers,” said Col. Mark Dmytryszyn, 2nd BW commander. “While not everything went perfect, the Strikers performed admirably and demonstrated our winning combat power.”
Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman / U.S. Air Force