B-2 conducts mission in Indo-Pacific, integrates with fighters from Royal Australian Air Force

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U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Wes Hudnall, Alaska Air National Guard KC-135 Stratotanker boom operator, conducts aerial refueling operations for a B-2 Spirit during a training mission in the Indo-Pacific region, March 23, 2022. During the more than 50-hour round-trip trek to Australia and back, the B-2 received aerial refueling from numerous tanker aircraft — ensuring the mission was successful and further demonstrating the U.S. Air Forces’ global strike capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux)


By Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux

Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE AMBERLEY, Australia (AFNS) —  

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit flew from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley, March 23, to execute training with the Royal Australian Air Force to increase interoperability with a critical ally and operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region.  

The U.S. and Australia maintain a robust relationship underpinned by shared democratic values, common interests, and cultural affinities. The alliance is an anchor for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world.  

Once in Australian airspace, the B-2 teamed up with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air National Guard to complete aerial refueling before integrating with eight fighter aircraft — two Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, two RAAF EA-18 Growlers, two RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and two U.S. Air Force F-16C Aggressors — to conduct training operations. 

The B-2 then landed at RAAF Amberley — for the first time — and conducted a crew swap before becoming airborne, integrating with F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and returning back to Whiteman AFB. 

U.S. Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Royal Australian Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, Air Commander Australia, observed the B-2 aircraft on the ground at RAAF Amberley and met with the air and ground crews.  

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., flies in formation with two Royal Australian Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, two RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets, two RAAF EA-18 Growlers, and two U.S. Air Force F-16C Aggressors from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska during a training mission in the Indo-Pacific region, March 23, 2022. Once in Australian airspace, the B-2 crews from the 509th Bomb Wing teamed up with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air National Guard to complete aerial refueling before integrating with the eight fighter aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux)

“This is the most consequential theater with the most challenging security issues…and advancing our interoperability with critical allies like Australia is critical to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Aquilino said. “There are many aspects that are going on daily to continue to move the security relationship forward in a positive way to provide deterrence, prevent war, and maintain peace and stability within the region.” 

Aquilino said through training engagements like this, we strengthen resiliency, capability and cooperation between U.S. and Australian armed forces.  
 
Iervasi echoed the importance of the training and increased interoperability.  

“This is our most important relationship that we have in the Indo-Pacific region,” Iervasi said. “We have enduring bonds extending back for decades and we share common values and interests and we will continue to collaborate and keep this partnership strong.” 

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Conant, 393rd Bomb Squadron commander, led the U.S. effort on the ground and said it was missions like these that are how we exercise our global strike capabilities. 

“It’s our job to get out and support our combatant commanders and we’re always excited to be in the Indo-Pacific,” Conant said. “The main pillar of the National Defense Strategy is building relationships with our allies and partners because warfighting is a team sport, and our network of alliances and partnerships remains the backbone of global security.” 

While the B-2 crews were teaming up with RAAF counterparts and U.S. teammates in the air, other U.S. Airmen were conducting joint operations on the ground working side-by-side with different RAAF members such as: security forces, fuels, maintenance, and firefighters.  

Operating anywhere outside of home-station can come with its own set of challenges, which Airmen overcome by working together.   

A B-2 Spirit from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., prepares to conduct aerial refueling operations with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the Alaska Air National Guard, during a training mission in the Indo-Pacific region, March 23, 2022. Once in Australian airspace, the B-2 crews from the 509th Bomb Wing teamed up with the tanker before integrating with eight fighter aircraft — two RAAF F-35A Lightning IIs, two Royal Australian Air Force EA-18 Growlers, two RAAF Super Hornets and two U.S. Air Force F-16C Aggressors — to conduct training operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Hailey Haux)

“Coordination and communication is the key to overcoming any situation and we’re going to be better off in the long run for it,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Aaron Porter, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels superintendent. “That’s what these missions are for, building relationships with our allies and partners, overcoming challenges and making things better for the future.”