2nd Air Expeditionary Group was formed with aircraft from CONUS based 8th Air Force units to conduct strike missions as part of ‘Operation Noble Anvil’, the USAF part of ‘Operation Allied Force’. B-52Hs were deployed from the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, with B-1Bs from 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
The first eight B-52Hs arrived at RAF Fairford over the weekend of 21st/22nd February 1999 as tensions in the Balkans rose again.
With the failure of diplomacy to resolve the Kosovo situation, the morning of 24th March saw the start of the bombing campaign, when eight ‘buffs’ launched as ‘Havoc 11-18’. Two aircraft returned as spares and six continued on the mission armed with Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles (CALCMs).
Callsigns used during the evening recovery were ‘Reset 11-16’. Over the following days, two- and three-ship missions were launched, whilst a number of aircraft returned to Barksdale, with replacements arriving at Fairford with CALCMs carried internally. Mission launches throughout the first week at Fairford were covered by multiple TV crews, and were no doubt broadcast around the world.
The first KC-135 of the 366th Wing at Mountain Home AFB arrived at Fairford on 31st March, with an eventual complement of five aircraft flying daily refuelling missions using ‘Riyal’ callsigns. Five 28th BW B-1Bs arrived as ‘Razor 11-15’ on 1st April, and were soon flying daily missions armed with Mk 82 bombs. Further B-1Bs were rotated through the base in the following weeks, although the complement never rose above six Lancers.
As the air campaign intensified, the B-52 force switched to the conventional bombing role, with freefall weapons carried internally and on the wing pylons. Typical strike packages comprised two B-52Hs and two B-1Bs, with ‘Havoc’ and ‘Razor’ callsigns being used by both types. Further B-52Hs arrived from Barksdale and Minot on 1st May using ‘Tiger’ callsigns.
Two aircraft crossed the Atlantic with laser guided bombs on the wing pylons, and a further two arrived with AGM-142 ‘Have Nap’ TV guided missiles. One of the heaviest raids of the war was launched on the evening of 10th May, when a mixed package of B-52s and B-1Bs departed using callsigns ‘ Havoc 11-14’, ‘Razor 11-12’ and ‘Titus 41-42’.
A peace agreement between NATO and Serbia was signed on 9th June, following heavy B-52 raids on Yugoslav army units in Kosovo, widely reported by the media. By 20th June, eleven B-52Hs, five B-1Bs, and five KC-135Rs were still present, at which time bombs had been removed from wing pylons.Once it became clear that the Serbs had complied with the terms of the settlement, and had withdrawn from Kosovo, the massed air armada in Europe began a quick process of redeployment. The B-52H force left Fairford en-masse on 23rd June, when 8 aircraft returned to Barksdale as Brock 11, 13, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, whilst the 3 Minot machines returned home as Hazan 12, 14 and 16. The B-1Bs departed for Ellsworth on the following day using the familiar Razor callsigns, and the KC-135s departed on 25th. With the withdrawal completed the only aircraft movements were AMC transports collecting ground equipment and personnel.
Aircraft 86-0097, "Guardian"
A B-1B Lancer, assigned to the 77th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off here May 3, 1999.
Aircraft and personnel from the 77th are deployed here as part of the 2nd Air Expeditionary Group supporting Operation Allied Force.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Randy Mallard)
The 20th EBS was composed of B-52 squadrons from the 11th Bomb Squadron, 23rd Bomb Squadron,
20th Bomb Squadron and 96th Bomb Squadron
77th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron
77th EBS Leather Patch
22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron
106th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron
RAF Brize Norton
This patch was designed during the deployment but produced after the redeployment back to continental United States. The 106th EARS consisted of the 106th Air Refueling Squadron from Alabama and the 126th Air Refueling Squadron from Wisconsin, hence the A and W on the patch. Only 100 were produced.
100th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron
Bravo Alert Squadron - 106th EARS was a Subordinate to this Squadron
Five B-1Bs from the 28th BW at Ellsworth arrived at RAF Fairford in April 1st 1999 in support of Operation Allied Force. They were 85-0073, 85-0075, 85-0083 and 85-0091 from the 77th Bomb Squadron, and 86-0102 from the 37th BS. The 77th BS aircraft were all Block D conversions. Before the B-1Bs could be deployed a "block cycle" software update was required, so that the bomber's defensive avionics system could accurately identify and counter enemy radars (presumably the IS91 "Straight Flush" and RSN-125 "Low Blow" air defence radars which were being used by the Serbian air defence forces). This was done in less than 100 hours with the assistance of the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB.
Two aircraft launched before midnight local time on April 1st to attack the Novi Sud petroleum production facility at Pancevo, northeast of Belgrade. The weapon used was the Mk82 500lb iron bomb; these could be delivered accurately on target, despite the poor weather in the region, thanks to the GPS receivers in the Block D Lancers. The aircraft used the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System during the first (and presumably subsequent) missions, which was said "to be very effective at countering SAMs". In fact the ALE-50s performed as advertised, being engaged and destoyed by Serbian SA-6s, allowing the B-1Bs to complete their mission.
On the first night of operations, Captain (later Major) Gerald Goodfellow, an instructor WSO assigned to the 77th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, was involved in an incident which for which he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism. During the first attack run, Goodfellow released thirty-two Mk82 bombs, but he was then unable to close the bomb bay doors and a malfunction in the weapon system prevented further bomb releases.
Although Goodfellow was able to fix the malfunction, the bomb bay doors remained open. The aircraft commander decided to continue to the second target, and dropped forty Mk82s on it, before a SAM was fired at the aircraft. The crew used chaff, ECM and maneuvering to defeat it. During the maneuveres to avoid the SAM, the aircraft was forced into the engagement zone of a second SAM, which was also defeated.
The aggressive maneuvering, and the increased drag caused by the open bomb bay doors, caused the B-1B to use more fuel than expected, requiring a rendezvous with a tanker. While returning to Fairford the aircraft was struck by lightning, which blew off a portion of the horizontal stabiliser. Visibility on landing was poor, but the crew successfully put the aircraft on the ground after a mission which had lasted over 14 hours.
B-1B 84-0074 arrived at Fairford on April 8th. It replaced 85-0075, which returned to Ellsworth for periodic maintenance on April 11th. Similarly 86-0097 arrived on April 24th, and 85-0073 returned to Ellsworth on April 26th.
B-1B 86-0129 of the 37th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth arrived at Fairford on May 15th 1999. 86-0102, which had been at Fairford since April 1st, returned to Ellsworth on May 18th.
85-0075 returned to Fairford on May 27th 1999. It replaced 85-0083, which returned to Ellsworth for maintenance on the 29th. On June 3rd 1999 86-0104 from the 77th BS arrived at Fairford. It replaced 85-0074 which departed on June 6th.
Up to June 7th the B-1s at Fairford had dropped more than 1100 tonnes of ordnance (approx 5000 Mk 82 bombs) on targets in Serbia. 81 strike missions had been flown, of which 74 released weapons. All strike missions had taken off on time.
As a result of all that ordnance the following were either seriously damaged or destroyed:
On June 7th 1999 86-0097 took off on a combat mission from Fairford, but its undercarriage failed to retract properly. The crew was forced to dump their bombs into area D112N in the Bristol Channel, and then orbit for nearly an hour to burn off fuel before returning to land at Fairford.
Following the end of Operation Allied Force on June 20th 1999, all the B-1s at Fairford (85-0075, 85-0091, 86-0097, 86-0104 and 86-0129) returned to Ellsworth on June 24th. Final combat sorties were:
The B-1B created an unparalleled record in Kosovo that may be unsurpassed in history, in which it completed 99 of 100
combat missions and took off on time 100% of the time. The seven
B-1Bs involved dropped 20 percent of the bombs (1100 tonnes+) during that conflict.
by John P. Williamson
RAF Fairford >