These Photos From The B-1B’s Latest Guam Deployment Are Just Ridiculous

The Air Force has been pumping out stunning imagery of the B-1B swing-wing bomber during its Bomber Task Force mission in the Pacific.

byThomas NewdickJul 7, 2022 6:28 PM
These Photos From The B-1B’s Latest Guam Deployment Are Just Ridiculous
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
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The U.S. Air Force’s latest deployment of B-1B Lancers to the highly strategic Andersen Air Force Base on the island of Guam has resulted in no shortage of awe-inspiring official photography of the swing-wing bombers in action. As well as posing for the photographer in the air and on the ground during its current Pacific sojourn, the four ‘Bones’ at Andersen have also taken part in the large-scale Valiant Shield exercise. In addition, the bombers have worked alongside Australian allies, reflecting an increasingly important relationship in the region, part of a trilateral advanced defense agreement that also involves the United Kingdom.

You can read the full background to the current B-1 Bomber Task Force, or BTF, mission at Andersen AFB here, but since our first report it’s become clear that the Air Force has been taking every opportunity to visually document these always impressive-looking aircraft during their time in and around Guam. The following images in the main part of this article are among the best we’ve seen of the Bone, cementing its reputation as one of the Air Force’s most photogenic aircraft.

A B-1B deploys flares during a Bomber Task Force mission over the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B flies behind a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, during a Bomber Task Force mission over the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
U.S. Air Force service members, assigned to the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, inspect a B-1B at Andersen, after a Bomber Task Force mission, June 25, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
U.S. Air Force service members prepare to inspect a B-1B at Andersen Air Force Base, June 25, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Vortices and moisture stream from the wings of a B-1B as it flies behind a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, during a Bomber Task Force mission over the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Pilots assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, normally based at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, prepare their B-1B to take off from Andersen Air Force Base to participate in a Bomber Task Force Mission, June 22, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
B-1Bs from the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron over the Pacific Ocean during a Bomber Task Force mission, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Two B-1Bs in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker, assigned to 506th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, over the Pacific Ocean, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A Lancer positions behind the KC-135 Stratotanker. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B is lit up as it releases flares during its Bomber Task Force mission, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Service members from the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit perform post-flight checks on a B-1B of the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, at Andersen Air Force Base. The Lancer had just returned from a Bomber Task Force mission with the Royal Australian Air Force, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B waits to be taxied to a parking spot after returning to Andersen Air Force Base, June 22, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
​​B-1B maintainers assigned to the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron push a Lancer to a parking spot after returning to Andersen Air Force Base, June 22, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B takes off from Andersen Air Force Base to join the Royal Australian Air Force for a Bomber Task Force mission, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Caggiano
A B-1B takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to join the Royal Australian Air Force for a Bomber Task Force mission, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Caggiano
A B-1B waits on a taxiway at Andersen Air Force Base, after returning from a Bomber Task Force mission with the Royal Australian Air Force, June 20, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Caggiano
A B-1B waits on a taxiway at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam after returning from a Bomber Task Force mission, June 17, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B flies under the moon at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, June 12, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
A B-1B sits in a parking spot after returning from a Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, June 12, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B flies over another Lancer on the ground at Andersen Air Force Base, June 12, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A dramatic sky over Guam as the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron supports the Bomber Task Force mission at Andersen Air Force Base, June 12, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B waits to be guided into a parking spot after returning to Andersen Air Force Base, June 8, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Two Lancers taxi after receiving a fresh water rinse at Anderson Air Force Base, June 8, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
A B-1B prepares to park as the sun sets at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, June 8, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
Two Lancers wait on a taxiway at Andersen Air Force Base, after a Bomber Task Force mission June 8, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quentin Marx
A B-1B Lancer waits on a taxiway at Andersen Air Force Base, June 8, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Quentin Marx
A B-1B is pushed into a parking spot at Andersen Air Force Base after supporting a Bomber Task Force integration mission in the Indo-Pacific region. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Aircrew assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, discuss their B-1B mission upon returning from a Bomber Task Force integration mission in the Indo-Pacific region at Andersen Air Force Base, June 6, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
Airmen assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, perform a post-flight inspection on a B-1B at Andersen Air Force Base, after participating in a Bomber Task Force integration mission, June 6, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
A B-1B blazes down the runway at Andersen Air Force Base, June 6, 2022. U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
A B-1B Lancer is inspected after a Bomber Task Force mission at Andersen Air Force Base, June 6, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chris Hibben
A B-1B waits on a taxiway at Andersen Air Force Base after arriving for the latest Bomber Task Force mission, June 3, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest
One of four B-1Bs assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron taxis on Andersen Air Force Base after arriving there on June 3, 2022. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Nicholas Priest

While Bomber Task Force missions are no longer conducted at their previous tempo on Guam, the ability to project long-range air power to the Pacific outpost remains a critical one for the Air Force. This is especially the case whenever tensions with North Korea become heightened, which led to some speculation that the latest BTF might be connected to a long-expected nuclear test by Pyongyang. While a seventh North Korean nuclear test remains a distinct possibility, the current BTF posture means that Air Force Global Strike Command bombers are expected to be able to rapidly move out to Guam under a much less predictable deployment plan to respond to such contingencies.

The four B-1Bs at Andersen Air Force Base as photographed on June 4, 2022. PHOTO © 2022 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION

For now, at least, the Bones have been working with allies in the region as well as conducting the major Valiant Shield 22 exercise with other U.S. forces. The ninth iteration of Valiant Shield 22 concluded on June 17, 2022, after 12 days of joint operations at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace. The maneuvers came to an end with a SINKEX, or sink at-sea live-fire training exercises, during which the decommissioned frigate ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG-48) was targeted with a range of munitions, including a Standard Missile 6, or SM-6, in surface-to-surface mode. This was all part of a demonstration of what the service term “coordinated multi-domain, multi-axis, long-range maritime strikes.” B-1Bs from Guam were also involved in the SINKEX, employing undisclosed munitions, perhaps the AGM-158C Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) or other precision ordnance.

Aircraft from Carrier Air Wing Nine fly over the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), front left, amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), front center, aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), front right, the cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), middle left, destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65), middle center, cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), middle right, destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), back left, and destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), back right, as they sail in formation during Valiant Shield 2022. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Thaddeus Berry

The deployment to Guam also allowed the B-1s to participate in Exercise Diamond Storm 22, the culmination of the Royal Australian Air Force’s Air Warfare Instructor Course (AWIC), which took place from May 30 to June 24. AWIC is a six-month course that trains instructor candidates for various different RAAF platforms, with talented aviators being selected to take part before returning to their units as instructors. Overall, the process is broadly similar to the U.S. Air Force’s Weapons School Course or the U.S. Navy’s Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center warfare schools, including TOPGUN.

A Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18F Super Hornet flies alongside a B-1B during Exercise Diamond Storm 2022. Australian Department of Defense

While the strategic importance of Andersen Air Force Base remains undisputable, the survivability of the facility and other military infrastructure on the island has begun to be seriously questioned as of late, especially as China expands its options for striking targets across the wider Asia Pacific region. This has led to a renewed emphasis on protecting the island against attack, including enhanced defenses to better respond to a missile attack from China, or other potential regional adversaries. To address the cruise missile threat, in particular, the U.S. has also deployed Iron Dome batteries to the island in an experimental initiative capacity. Meanwhile, the ability of aircraft to operate from austere airstrips on Guam to provide a degree of independence from Andersen has also been trialed of late, although this is not an option for bombers like the B-1.

Beyond Guam, the Air Force is also investing in other airfields in the region that B-1s potentially could use. Prominent among these is the expansion of Tinian International Airport to act as a divert airfield for the U.S. military in a crisis. This major project should provide an alternative operating location to Andersen and is located just to the northeast of Guam.

A satellite image showing Tinian International Airport on June 6, 2022. Construction work is clearly visible at the northwestern end of the airport. PHOTO © 2022 PLANET LABS INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRINTED BY PERMISSION

Clearly, however, the B-1 remains part of Air Force plans when it comes to power projection in the Asia Pacific theater. This is despite the fact that the Lancer fleet has been significantly reduced of late. In September last year, the service completed the retirement of a group of 17 B-1Bs, giving up the most worn-out examples, to help consolidate the fleet and improve its readiness rates.

In the background, there has been a catalog of issues that have affected the B-1’s already less-than-stellar availability rate. Earlier this year, a B-1B was involved in a flight-line incident at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, when one of its engines caught fire while undergoing maintenance. Among other recent problems faced by the Lancer fleet in recent years was an issue with the augmenter fuel pump filter housing that led to a fleet-wide grounding last year. Another significant grounding came about as the result of a failed ejection and subsequent emergency landing in Midland, Texas, which we wrote about here and here

Until the final replacement of the B-1 by the B-21 Raider stealth bomber, a reduced fleet of 45 B-1Bs will continue to be available for Bomber Task Force missions, including periodic deployments to Guam. With plans for the B-21 to enter service at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota sometime in the mid-to-late 2020s, followed by Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and then Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, there will certainly be many more opportunities for photographers to capture the B-1 in its element before it flies its last mission.

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com

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