A pair of B-1B Lancer bombers on a long-range training flight Friday to Europe practiced how it would use a long-range missile designed to target and destroy enemy ships.
In a Monday release, U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa said that the B-1s, from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, trained on the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile during the Bomber Task Force mission to the Black Sea region.
USAFE posted photos of the B-1s’ flight on Friday, shortly after it happened, but did not detail the LRASM portion of their mission until Monday.
The ship-killing LRASM, which is built by Lockheed Martin, will give the B-1 advanced stand-off and counter-ship capabilities, the release said.
“LRASM plays a critical role in ensuring U.S. naval access to operate in both open-ocean and littoral environments due to its enhanced ability to discriminate between targets from long range,” Lt. Col. Timothy Albrecht, a Bomber Task Force planner at the 603rd Air Operations Center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said in the release. “With the increase of maritime threats and their improvement of anti-access/area denial environmental weapons, this stealthy anti-ship cruise missile provides reduced risk to strike assets by penetrating and defeating sophisticated enemy air-defense systems.”
This training is especially important to prepare B-1 crews to counter new and emerging threats, USAFE said, and to be ready for a conflict against a major power, as outlined in the Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy.
Russia occupied and seized the Crimean Peninsula, which contains a key port in the Black Sea, from Ukraine in 2014, sparking a global crisis and renewing concerns about Russian aggression.
The Lancers were also trained with, at various times, Su-27 Flankers and MiG-29 Fulcrums from Ukraine’s air force, three MiG-21s and an F-16 from Romania, and F-16s and MiG-29s from Poland. They were also refueled by Turkish KC-135s. It was the first time B-1s flew alongside the Ukrainian and Turkish aircraft.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.