Part of what the U.S. Department of Defense’s Air-Sea Battle Concept seeks to do is to better integrate the various services in unique and creative ways. To get the services out of their comfort zones. For several U.S. Navy minesmen and U.S. Air Force airmen, a training exercise at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., from June 2 through 7, certainly did that.
“You don’t want to have to be in a situation where you have to deploy mines, but if the threat is there, you want to know you and everyone you are working with knows what they’re doing.”
Air Force airmen from the 28th Munitions Squadron (MUNS) partnered with Navy midshipmen from Naval Munitions Command Seal Beach, Calif., to learn how to load and deploy naval mines from B-1B Lancer bombers. Using Navy Mk-62 and Mk-65 Quick Strike mines, the Air Force and Navy divided up the building and the loading of the mines. The midshipmen focused on building the Mk-62s and Mk-65s, while airmen concentrated on loading the mines onto the B-1B Lancers.
The exercise was unusual, because the Air Force doesn’t routinely work with Navy munitions. “It was definitely a good experience,” said Staff Sgt. Raymond Elmendorf, a conventional maintenance crew chief and munitions inspector with the 28th MUNS, in an Air Force release. The complexities of the exercise and the professionalism of the airmen and midshipmen ensured that inter-service rivalry was avoided. ”I had never worked with the Navy before … but it was good to build that camaraderie. When we were out there building [mines], it wasn’t really just Air Force [and] Navy … [it was much more] of a team.”
”I had never worked with the Navy before … but it was good to build that camaraderie. When we were out there building [mines], it wasn’t really just Air Force [and] Navy … [it was much more] of a team.”
Navy midshipmen who participated in the exercise praised the airmen involved in the six-day exercise. “Working with the Air Force wasn’t all that different for us, especially since we do this all the time,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Frick. “We worked really well with the airmen who took part in this build. They made it easy for us to build, load and wait for deployment of our mines.”
Originally designed to penetrate Soviet airspace at low levels and deliver nuclear weapons, B-1B Lancers have rendered steady service during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It has proven surprisingly adaptable for conventional missions. With the war in Afghanistan winding down, the Air Force is looking for ways to expand the conventional capabilities of its aircraft.
“If we had the technical guidance, we could definitely build it too.”
After the exercise, the airmen felt confident working with the naval mines. “If we had the technical guidance, we could definitely build it too,” said Elmendorf. It was the first time an exercise of this type had been conducted in several years. With the much ballyhooed “Pacific pivot,” the ability of the B-1B to lay Navy mines could be useful, especially with the B-1Bs payload capacity, the largest in the Air Force inventory. “If we are called upon to work alongside airmen, we’ll be ready,” said Frick. “You don’t want to have to be in a situation where you have to deploy mines, but if the threat is there, you want to know you and everyone you are working with knows what they’re doing.”