Bomber airpower resonates with Saber Strike ground forces
By Senior Airman Sahara L. Fales, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs
/ Published June 16, 2016
ROYAL AIR FORCE FAIRFORD, United Kingdom -- Minot Air Force Base's B-52H Stratofortresses in conjunction with U.S. and Latvian Army joint terminal air controllers, JTACs, participated in their first mission to kick-off the multinational and U.S. Army Europe-led exercise Saber Strike 16, in Latvia, June 13, 2016.
Saber Strike is a long-standing training exercise, which has been conducted annually since 2010. This year's exercise will focus on promoting interoperability with allies and regional partners and improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions to prepare the participating nations and units for future operations.
"The purpose of the Saber Strike exercise is to work with our NATO allies and do bilateral training with those nations," said Capt. David Miller, 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron radar navigator. "It is important to conduct training on both sides -- as iron sharpens iron, they get better combat skills out of it and so do we."
The exercise features the integration of close-air support, or CAS, with allied and partner nation ground forces as well as tests air deployment of forces and equipment. Participating nations include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, as well as Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, United Kingdom and the United States.
During their first mission, the B-52 aircrew worked with a targeting pod, which gives them the capability to use infrared or a day-time charge-coupled device TV, to view targets on the ground then decide whether to investigate, loiter and watch, or direct munitions.
"My role as the radar navigator was to talk with the JTACs on the ground and guide out pod video for a bomb-on-target CAS scenario," Miller said. "It was a very unique experience, and a great chance for us to go out and train how we fight."
Saber Strike 16 serves as an effective proving ground for participating units to validate their ability to assemble rapid-reaction forces and deploy them throughout Eastern Europe on short notice. The exercise trains participants on command and control as well as interoperability with regional allies and partners.
"As a navigator, my job was to push the crew along through the day by running checklists and getting us where we need to be on-time," said 1Lt. Josh Biedebach, 23rd EBS navigator. "That's one of the most important things; that our NATO friends can trust that we'll be on-time on-target, whenever they need us."
One of the B-52's most notable attributes centers on its payload, capability and diversity.
"The B-52 is a great weapons platform, we can carry nearly every air-to-ground munition in the U.S. Air Force inventory," Miller said. "We bring a veritable Swiss army knife of tools and capabilities to the ground war fighter.
"The B-52 is definitely one of the more iconic aircraft in the U.S. inventory," Biedebach agreed. "I think it sends a message of protection and strength to our allies around the world."