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B-1B Lancer: Hard to be humble

Airman 1st Class Jaylin King, an aerospace propulsion apprentice assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., performs maintenance on a grounded B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Aircraft and personnel deploy to Nellis AFB for Red Flag under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise’s ‘Blue” forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Airman 1st Class Jaylin King, an aerospace propulsion apprentice assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., performs maintenance on a grounded B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Aircraft and personnel deploy to Nellis AFB for Red Flag under the Air Expeditionary Force concept and make up the exercise’s ‘Blue” forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., begins to take off down the runway during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag involves a variety of attack, fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airlift support, and search and rescue aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., begins to take off down the runway during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag involves a variety of attack, fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, airlift support, and search and rescue aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan 27, 2017.  Red Flag is an exercise at Nellis AFB that provides aircrews an opportunity to experience realistic, stressful combat situations in a controlled environment to increase mission capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan 27, 2017. Red Flag is an exercise at Nellis AFB that provides aircrews an opportunity to experience realistic, stressful combat situations in a controlled environment to increase mission capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Hollis and Senior Airman Jacob Widtmannheiser, crew chiefs assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., talk as a B-1B Lancer prepares to takeoff during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. All four branches of the U.S. military and air forces from allied nations participate in Red Flag in order to familiarize forces that will work together in future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Staff Sgt. Justin Hollis and Senior Airman Jacob Widtmannheiser, crew chiefs assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., talk as a B-1B Lancer prepares to takeoff during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. All four branches of the U.S. military and air forces from allied nations participate in Red Flag in order to familiarize forces that will work together in future operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A pilot assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., performs preflight checks on a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag was established in 1975 as one of the initiatives to better prepare our forces for combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A pilot assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., performs preflight checks on a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag was established in 1975 as one of the initiatives to better prepare our forces for combat. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomber Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline as pilots perform preflight checks during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Red Flag night missions present the additional challenge of low visibility, testing aircrew’s ability to execute the mission at any hour in a contested and degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomber Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline as pilots perform preflight checks during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Red Flag night missions present the additional challenge of low visibility, testing aircrew’s ability to execute the mission at any hour in a contested and degraded environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., taxis to participate in night operations during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Night mission have been integrated into Red Flag to prepare aircrews for missions in low-light environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., taxis to participate in night operations during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Night mission have been integrated into Red Flag to prepare aircrews for missions in low-light environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

The tail of a B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Red Flag enhances the 34th BS’s aircrews’ combat readiness and survivability by challenging them with realistic combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

The tail of a B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Red Flag enhances the 34th BS’s aircrews’ combat readiness and survivability by challenging them with realistic combat scenarios. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Airman 1st Class Jaylin King an aerospace propulsion apprentice assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., works on a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Aerospace Propulsion specialists test, maintain and repair all parts of the engine in order to keep the B-1b flying during the three week exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Airman 1st Class Jaylin King an aerospace propulsion apprentice assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., works on a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Aerospace Propulsion specialists test, maintain and repair all parts of the engine in order to keep the B-1b flying during the three week exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

Senior Airman Jacob Widtmannheiser, a crew chief assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., prepares a B-1B Lancer for take-off during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag is one of a series of advanced training programs administered by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center to train aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)
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Senior Airman Jacob Widtmannheiser, a crew chief assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., prepares a B-1B Lancer for take-off during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 27, 2017. Red Flag is one of a series of advanced training programs administered by the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center to train aircrews. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

The emblem for the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., is displayed on the side of a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 operations on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Since its establishment at Nellis AFB in 1975, Red Flag has played host to military units from more than 30 countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)
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The emblem for the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., is displayed on the side of a B-1B Lancer during Red Flag 17-1 operations on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 25, 2017. Since its establishment at Nellis AFB in 1975, Red Flag has played host to military units from more than 30 countries. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline as maintainers perform preflight checks during night operations of Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Jan. 25, 2017. Flying units from around the globe deploy to Nellis AFB to participate in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)
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A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., rests on the flightline as maintainers perform preflight checks during night operations of Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Jan. 25, 2017. Flying units from around the globe deploy to Nellis AFB to participate in Red Flag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin Tanenbaum/Released)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — --

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The engines from two powerful bombers hum at an even pace as one of the most essential airframes in the U.S. Air Force’s arsenal, the B-1B Lancer, prepares to takeoff.

 

As the pilots of the B-1 perform interior checks, Senior Airman Jacob Widtmannheiser, a crew chief assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, displays his squadron patch on his arm.

 

Written on the patch: “Hard to be Humble.”

 

For the Airmen of the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, this motto is one that’s hard to shy away from.

 

Since its inaugural flight on Oct. 1, 1986, the B-1B has been a work horse for the Air Force. The airframe holds records for speed, payload, range and time of climb in its class, and it brings all those talents to integrate with fifth-generation fighters during Red Flag 17-1 on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

 

“For Red Flag 17-1, the B-1 was the only bomber so our primary responsibility was strike, but we also fulfilled other roles as well,” said Jeffrey Spinney, 34th BS assistant flight commander for weapons and tactics. “Through the use of our sensors, we were able to provide a back fill to ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), RESCORT (rescue/escort), and targeting as well. Since the fighters have a limited number of bombs, we’re able to carry a larger payload and our primary role was attacking targets.”

 

During the three-week exercise, the aircrew from Ellsworth AFB were faced with many challenges, including a new avionics system and also integrating with a new fifth-generation platform for the first time in Red Flag.

 

“This Red Flag was unique. The B-1 is going through a significant upgrade to our avionics so the biggest thing that we took away from this Red Flag is Link 16,” said Spinney. “It allows our jet to be interconnected with all of the other package players. If you look at when our program started in the 1980s, and it has gone through many upgrades, but this has been the most significant shift. When integrating with fifth-generation assets, the capability to be on that Link 16 and have those avionics brings us forward into the 21th century. There were many lessons learned and it was valuable to be able to work with them on that top-tier level.”

 

Getting to the top tier has been a lengthy process, and with months of work taking place before Red Flag, the 37th BS is ready to test and show off their new upgrade.

 

“For our squadron, we’ve been training for seven months on the new aircraft,” said Spinney. “We’ve used this Red Flag as a capstone of sorts to validate the 37th BS capability with the airframe and new Link 16 system.”

The system isn’t the only new thing for the B-1 during Red Flag. In addition to this system upgrade, the first ever Air Force F-35 squadron also participated in Red Flag 17-1.

 

“We’re integrating with the F-35. It’s the new kid on the block, but our tactics remain the same,” said Spinney. “The ability for the F-35 and rest of the fifth generation to go a little bit further than everyone else gives us a little more. In terms of our overall tactics, other than an increased capability, we don’t shift them. Which is good, because we don’t have to reinvent the wheel and we just get that increased capability with the F-35.”

 

While both of these factors — the system upgrade and new fifth-generation airframe — served as tests for the 37th BS, the squadron took them in stride and Red Flag successfully.

 

“Our squadron is chalking this up as an outstanding victory. This is the first time that the 37th BS used the new airframe with the avionics upgrade,” said Spinney. “Our intelligence won the ‘Outstanding Unit Intelligence Award’ so they received a lot of great training out of the exercise. The maintenance unit also won the ‘Outstanding Maintenance Unit’ of Red Flag as well. It’s been a big win for us to all come together and integrate with fourth- and fifth-generation assets.”

 

Overall, the entire crew from Ellsworth AFB took their motto to heart during Red Flag 17-1, and will have even more trouble being humble.

 

“I know what the B-1 is here to accomplish, and it makes me proud to be a part of getting that jet in the air knowing what it’s capable of,” said Witmannheiser.


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