That time two B-2 STEALTH BOMBER flew 32-hours mission to target ISIS in Libya

That time two B-2 STEALTH BOMBER flew 32-hours mission to target ISIS in Libya

Just days before Barack Obama left office, two B-2 stealth fighters carrying 80 precision-guided bombs were sent to Libya 5,700 miles away to target ISIS terror camps

B-2 STEALTH BOMBER took off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and flew 32-hours long mission to the target in Libya and then return home.

Dozens of ISIS operatives were killed in the bombing, which targeted the camps about 30 miles southwest of the coastal Libyan town of Sirte.

Every B-2 pilot on the base wanted to go on this mission. Scorch is one of 4 pilots who was selected by airforce for the mission

In an interview to Popular Mechanics Scorch agreed to speak about how a globe-spanning airstrike was planned and executed

Related Article: How U.S. Air Force B-2 Bomber pilots pull off 33-Hour long-duration Spirit mission

The mission is easy to describe, but hard to execute. Two B-2 Spirit bombers, each with two people in the cockpit, will take off, fly to the target, drop enough bombs to eradicate the ISIS camps, and immediately fly back home to Missouri.

Things get more complex as planners weigh in on everything from the pilot’s diets to the size of the bombs loaded in the airplane.

The intelligence staff of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was monitoring the ISIS camps for weeks before the White House gives them the go-ahead.  Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, AFRICOM commander, chooses the B-2 for the mission because for the Libya mission a “homogenous loadout” of 500-pound bombs was needed

80 GBU-38 guided ammunitions inside one bay door of a B-2 before Libya mission

The B-2 can carry 80 of these 500-pound bombs, each guided to detonation with GPS coordinates. Each of the bombs can be programmed to hit a specific target, at a specific altitude, from a specific angle, at a specific time.

But this ISIS attack isn’t a typical B-2 strike. Usually, stealth bombers knock down defenses and allow other, non-stealth aircraft to strike undefended targets. Instead, these two B-2s will strike the camps, wait overhead for an assessment of the damage, and then retask their remaining bombs to hit anything that’s still standing. In Air Force parlance, this mission will be two parts “deliberate” (pre-planned) and one part “dynamic.”

To prepare for the flight, crews at the base begin acclimating the pilots to the rigorous schedule by apportioning nap times. They also train the pilots in time management so that they have the proper balance of snack times and naps for periods of intense concentration.

The 509th Bomb Wing prepares the B-2 Spirit as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, Jan. 17, 2017The 509th Bomb Wing prepares the B-2 Spirit as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, Jan. 17, 2017
The 509th Bomb Wing prepares the B-2 Spirit as part of Operation Odyssey Lightning, Jan. 17, 2017

The journey to Libya was a long one, but the monotony is broken up by mid-air refueling. The planes need to be refueled twice before they reach their target. That task is left to KC-135 Stratotankers, which meet the B-2s in mid-air.

The pilots try to keep themselves occupied, but they also need to save up their strength for the bombing run.

Bombing runs are preprogrammed events—all part of the flight plan. The bomber calculates the time of release at the particular airspeed and automatically opens the bomb bay doors to release the weapons from either a rotary launcher or a bomb rack

Over Libya, southwest of Sirte, the B-2s approach the targets. The B-2s open their bomb bay doors and the 500-pound bombs pour out.

Below the dark bombers, the ISIS fighters don’t have any warning as thousands of pounds of explosives sails their way from above.

At least one Predator drone was nearby to record the impact—a cacophony of overpressure blasts, roiling smoke and dust, and secondary explosions.

Dozens of ISIS fighters are killed. The Pentagon later gives a final tally at around 100.

The B-2s stay on station, waiting to hear a word from AFRICOM of new GPS targets to program. The battle damage assessment was made.

The Pentagon later indicates that the Predators fired a few Hellfire missiles at ISIS survivors, but the camps were devastated. The Libya mission was completed with just one run necessary.

Now the bomber was headed home – 18 hours until its destination. The way back has its own risks, fatigue chief among them.

But there are two refueling encounters to go on the way home. By the time these happen, the pilots are eager to get home, get into U.S. airspace, and get the hell out of that cockpit.

Thirty-two hours after takeoff, the two B-2s land at Whiteman base, now filled with airmen and personnel that I’ve heard about the strikes on television

Pilots and others at the base meet the crew, and not to just shake hands. They carry gear, help stow the jet, and do anything to help the exhausted pilots, who now face post-mission briefings with flight docs, commanders, and the crew chief.

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