Bomber Task Force Europe 24-1

29/09/2023

The most recent Bomber Task Force Europe deployment started rather surprisingly, as, on September 28th, a Kalitta Air Boeing 747 filed a flight plan from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to RAF Fairford. This meant that once again the B-1B Lancer would be deploying to the European Theater. This is their 3rd visit to the UK since October 2021, and their 4th to Europe since early 2021.

The Boeing 747 arrived into RAF Fairford at roughly 11am on Friday, 29th September. Having unloaded the first of the Lancer kit, it departed onwards to Istanbul at around 15:30. 

On Monday, 2nd October, both a National Airlines Airbus A330 and Atlas Air Boeing 747 filed flights to Dyess AFB. Not long after both jets had arrived, they put in their next route. The Atlas would be coming directly to Fairford, however, the National stopped twice on its way across, once at Topeka Regional and again in Detroit. Both aircraft arrived and departed on Tuesday, 3rd October. The A330 flew to Poznan and the 747 to Hong Kong.

The last of the support arrived aboard a Boeing C-17A Globemaster on Thursday, October 5th. It departed the following day.  

Early morning on October 11th, 2 USAF Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aircraft flew from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst to Griffiss Internationa Airport, positioning for the bombers. By this time, an air refuelling reservation had been posted for the following morning. 

MOCHA41 flight of 3 B-1 Lancers departed Dyess destined for the UK. Following the refuelling, 1 bomber returned to Dyess, as this was just an air spare to ensure they would get 2 jets across to the UK. Following a mission in Europe, B-1s 86-0107 and 86-0119 arrived at RAF Fairford just after 4pm.

On Friday 13th October, another refuelling reservation had been posted for the same area. The reservation was for Saturday, 14th October. Later that Saturday, the final 2 B-1s, 86-0103 and 86-0124, arrived in Gloucestershire as JUICE41 flight.

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0124 JUICE41

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 JUICE42

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0107 

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0119

October 27th saw the 9th perform multiple flights, starting at 08:40 when HOWLER51 flight of 2 departed to the North Sea, working with RAF Eurofighter Typhoons from RAF Lossiemouth. The pair arrived back just shy of midday. One aircraft, 86-0103, taxied to the north side of the base where it performed a hot-pit refuel. HOWLER53 flight of 2 was due back out, but due to issues with HOWLER54, HOWLER53 departed to the North Sea alone. Seen below is aircraft 86-0103 returning from the North Sea as HOWLER53.

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 HOWLER53

Tuesday 31st October saw HOWLER21 flight of 2 fly to Turkey and perform a Hot-Pit refuel at Incirlik Air Base. This marks the first time a B-1 has ever landed in the country. 

Rumours on Saturday 4th November suggested that a pair of B-1s would depart Fairford that night on a long-range mission. These rumours became a reality when, that evening, HOWLER61/62 blasted out of Fairford destined initially for Cornwall to meet a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall. Once fuelled, a single Lancer pressed on with the mission to the Middle East while the air spare returned to Fairford. Departing Fairford at around 19:15, it wasn't until 20:23 the following day that HOWLER61 returned! This is now officially the longest-ever Fairford to Fairford mission flown by the B-1, racking up an impressive 25 hours and 8 minutes in the air. 

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0119 HOWLER61

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 HOWLER62

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancers 86-0119 HOWLER61 & 86-0103 HOWLER62

HOWLER31 flight of 2 was scheduled for a 20:20 departure on November 7th, with one aircraft planned to fly as an airspare. HOWLER was expected to meet with one of RAF Mildenhall's KC-135 Stratotankers to take on fuel before heading 'downrange' on a non-stop Fairford to Fairford flight. Technical difficulties with at least 3 B-1s and a KC-135 pushed back the departure considerably. The aircraft was delayed until 21:10 initially with a planned refuelling time of 21:50. As of 21:10, however, the aircraft hadn't moved! 5 minutes later HOWLER were cleared to taxi to runway 27 but were told there would be a 5-minute delay. Finally! Further issues (I would presume involving flight plans) delayed the departure again until 22:10, with a planned refuelling time of 22:30. The Lancers were finally cleared to blast, departing Fairford at 22:12 and 22:13 respectively. While the delays were less than ideal for those of us crazy enough to be at the fenceline on a cold November night, the departures were certainly memorable. Late night Lancers just hit different!

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 HOWLER31

I attempted to photograph the second departure but it was nothing more than 4 after burning engines, so I'll only share the video taken on this cold but awesome evening. 

On November 10th, the first pair departed for home as OZZIE21 flight. The Lancers met up with a Mildenhall-based Boeing KC-135 over the South West of England. After taking on fuel, OZZIE flight flew directly back to the USA.

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0124 OZZIE21

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 OZZIE22

Wiltshire and Gloucestershire residents had a very early wake-up call when, around 01:35 on Monday, November 13th, 86-0107 departed RAF Fairford as HOWLER11 on a flight to the Middle East. While in the area, the aircraft performed in the flying display at the Dubai Airshow, and arrived back in England at around 22:00. 

Following the flight on November 13th, and with an air refueling reservation being shared on the 14th for November 15th, it became clear that this was the departure day for the final 2 aircraft. However, technical difficulties with aircraft 86-0119 meant that only 86-0107 got away as BOLD31. Similar to November 10th, the aircraft again met with a Mildenhall tanker for a top-up to get it across the pond. Once across, the aircraft joined with 2 Boeing KC-46s that provided the bone with enough fuel to get home. 

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0107 BOLD31

Arriving on November 14th just after sunset was this Boeing 767 tasked with taking the deployed force back to Dyess. Unfortunately, it didn't fly during my visit on November 15th but it did depart to the USA the following day.

The National Boeing 747 arrived from Birmingham Airport on November 15th, and following multiple delays, finally made it away at just after 5pm the same day. 

Omni Air International Boeing 767 N468AX

National Airlines Boeing 747 N537CA

A Super Galaxy arrived on November 17th from Germany to pick up the last of the kit for return to Dyess. Seen below is aircraft 86-0017 waiting to take on board a General Electric F101 engine and then departing following around 4 and a half hours on the ground at Fairford. 

USAF Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy 86-0017 RCH143

The last of the equipment returned home on Wednesday 22nd November aboard a Western Global Airlines MD-11. The aircraft arrived from Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany the day before. Seen below is N542KD departing RAF Fairford for Dallas Fort Worth, Texas. It flew onto Dyess later that day. 

The last B-1 (86-0119) was also planned to depart for home on the 22nd, but it unfortunately broke and was consequently stuck at Fairford until at least the beginning of the following week due to Thanksgiving weekend. It finally made it away as BOLD32 on Monday 4th December, treating those at the fence to a wing wave as it passed overhead.  This brought Bomber Task Force 24-1 to an end. 

Atlas Air Boeing 747 N498MC GIANT8816

Kalitta Air Boeing 747 N715CK CONNIE520

National Airlines Boeing 747 N537CA NATIONAL414

National Airlines Airbus A330 N819CA CAMBER504

Omni Air International Boeing 767 N468AX CAMBER598

Western Global Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-11 N542KD CAMBER553

USAF Boeing C-17A Globemaster III 99-0169 REACH591 - 437th Airlift Wing

USAF Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy 86-0017 REACH143 - 436th/512th Airlift Wing

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0103 - 9th Bomb Squadron 'Bats' - 7th Bomb Wing

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0107 - 28th Bomb Squadron 'Mohawks' - 7th Bomb Wing 

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0119 - 28th Bomb Squadron 'Mohawks' - 7th Bomb Wing 

USAF Rockwell B-1B Lancer 86-0124 - 9th Bomb Squadron 'Bats' - 7th Bomb Wing