US B-1Bomber Fly Into warzone Drops Satellite-Guided Bomb

A pair of U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers deployed from Texas to the United Kingdom for one of the US Air Force frequent Bomber Task Force rotations.

The four-engine, swing-wing warplanes wasted no time flying across the length of Europe to train with the NATO troops who arguably would need their help the most during wartime—the alliance’s lightly-armed Baltic battlegroups. B-1b Lancer with serial numbers 86-0110 and 86-0140 belonging to the 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base. They arrived at Royal Air Force Fairford on Aug. 6 for a weeks-long rotation meant to “demonstrate the U.S. Air Force’s unique ability to rapidly deploy and integrate with NATO allies and coalition partners,” according to the flying branch.

They set off on the morning of August 11, flew east across the North Sea, splitting Denmark then streaking across the Baltic Sea north of the Russian fort exclave of Kaliningrad before “dry-footed” over Lithuania. A gaggle of NATO joint tactical air controllers was waiting for them. They included Lithuanian Special Forces Joint Terminal Attack Controller as well as US Air Force and U.S. Navy controllers working for U.S. Special Operations Command Europe.

The controllers, posted up at a Lithuanian live-fire range, “coordinated with the bomber aircrews and identified simulated ground targets,” according to the U.S. Defense Department. “The mission focused on enhancing readiness and interoperability for the controllers responsible for coordinating air strikes to support ground forces.” In the event of ωɑɾ with Russia, the Baltic states would need reinforcing—and fast. To buy time for airborne and tank brigades to wind their way east, the alliance keeps a battalion-size battlegroup in each of the three countries, as well as one in Poland. Each battlegroup has around a thousand troops plus tanks and other armored vehicles.

The British Army leads the Estonian battlegroup. The Canadian army heads the Latvian group. The German army is in charge of the battlegroup in Lithuania and the U.S. Army leads the one in Poland. “They demonstrate the strength of the transatlantic bond and make clear that an attack on one ally would be considered an attack on the whole alliance,” NATO stated.

But even these battlegroups lack the firepower they’d need significantly to slow a Russian tank army rolling west across the NATO-Russia frontier. Hence the importance NATO places on training the Joint Terminal Attack Controller that coordinate air support for the eastern battlegroups. “That’s what you’ve got to think about—large impact, highly lethal, very precise ability to take on enemy forces,” US Air Force Colonel Andrew Roberts, an A-10 pilot, said of the Latvian Joint Terminal Attack Controller he trained with in 2018.

On its own, one of NATO Baltic battlegroups can throw a few 120-millimeter tank shells or fire some anti-tank missiles. American bombers dropping satellite-guided bombs give the battlegroup the firepower it would need to put a dent in a Russian assault force. “As a Joint Terminal Attack Controller,” Roberts said, “your bullet weighs 500 pounds.”

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