Title: A Look at The United States Bomber Force
Authors: Raul Colon
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Fundamental bomber combat missions involve a range of activities, including air refueling, high-altitude flight to the combat theater, entry into enemy territory, avoidance of enemy threats, delivering ordnance, and returning safely to base. These activities can occur at a variety of altitudes, depending upon the mission. Despite mission differences, bomber aircrews must always navigate accurately to the combat theater and target(s), avoid or neutralize enemy air defenses, deliver the ordnance on time and on target, and survive. In its simplest terms, combat is about defeating the enemy and preventing harm to U.S. and allied forces. When aircrews enter combat, they risk their lives. To reduce that risk and increase the chance for a successful mission, bomber aircrews need the most realistic training possible. In the Gulf War, bombers performed long-range, low- and high-altitude attacks on communication and industrial facilities in Iraq and later provided support to ground forces by bombing the entrenched Republican Guards. More recently, bomber aircrews from Barksdale and Dyess AFBs flew halfway around the world to launch cruise missiles and other ordnance at facilities for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Each time these aircrews entered the Iraqi theater, they needed to be ready for any threat or contingency. A different set of threats faced B-52 and B-1 aircrews recently in Kosovo. This variation in threats underlies the need for flexible realistic training.

Bomber combat missions vary day-to-day as enemy locations, targets, air defenses, and objectives change. For one mission, a bomber aircrew could be tasked to perform high-altitude bombing of an enemy's fuel depot; the next mission could involve a low-altitude attack on enemy troop concentrations. Each combat mission involves a number of different aircraft performing a precisely timed and planned sequence of events. Failure by a single aircraft to achieve the necessary timing, coordination, and positioning could jeopardize an entire mission. Each combat mission is unique, so aircrews must be fully trained to accomplish a wide variety of tasks. The types of bomber missions and tactics also vary from time to time as a result of changes in world situations, increases in enemy capabilities, and advances in own aircraft and weapons. Air Force personnel must consistently adapt and train to meet the challenge of these changes. Such changes can influence the altitude at which aircraft fly, the types of ordnance used, the tactics used in attacking targets and avoiding threats, and other aspects of combat missions. Because the Air Force needs to respond to such changes, aspects of aircrew training can vary from year to year. Preparing for these varied missions means that aircrews must have flexibility in training to respond to evolving global situations.

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