It began with an email in late February. The message, sent by air planners at the Germany headquarters of U.S. Africa Command to the 608th Air and Space Operations Center located at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, jump-started a “byzantine” process of communication, planning and paperwork involving no fewer than 10 U.S. military headquarters scattered across the globe.
The goal? To fly a pair of 150-foot-long U.S. Air Force B-1 bombers, pictured, on a more than 12,000-mile round trip from their home base in South Dakota, over the Atlantic Ocean to Libya, where they would conduct two bombing runs each on Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
If that seems like a lot of fuss over just two planes in an air campaign involving scores of jet fighters from a dozen NATO nations, consider this: the B-1 can carry more precision munitions than any other warplane except one. In a roughly four-day period involving 24 hours of combat time, those two B-1s and their combined eight crew members destroyed more than 100 Libyan targets. It would take dozens of NATO fighters to achieve the same effect.
The epic Libyan bombing run — described in detail by Air Force Magazine – illustrates why, even in this era of budget cuts, the Pentagon is determined to sustain its bomber fleet potentially into the 22nd century, by spending $40 billion or more on 100 new Next-Generation Bombers. Stealth fighters are great (when they’re not grounded, that is). But for taking out a bad guy’s ground forces and facilities, nothing beats a bomber.