Oct. 5 (UPI) -- The B-2 Spirit stealth bomber has completed its first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
The U.S. Air Force announced Thursday that three B-2s and about 200 airmen completed hundreds of sorties and regional training between Aug. 15 and Sept. 27 as part of the U.S. Strategic Command's Bomber Task Force deployment, including integrations with F-22 Raptors, weapons load exercises and conducting a hot-pit refueling.
While the B-2 rotates through the Indo-Pacific region on a regular basis, Air Force officials said this was the first time the bombers have operated from Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
"The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment," Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander, said in a statement. "Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future."
The B-2 achieves high subsonic speeds and has an intercontinental range of about 6,900 miles without refueling. The 20-aircraft fleet has mostly operated from its home base of Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, but since 2003 B-2s have also been stationed at other forward operating locations, including bases in Guam, the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
For the first deployment to Hawaii, B-2 pilots conducted local and long-duration sorties, as well as other regional training.
Exercises with F-22 Raptors of the 199th Fighter Squadron, part of the Hawaii Air National Guard, were described as a "perfect match" by the Air Force because, like the Spirit, the fifth-generation Raptor has stealth capabilities as a tactical fighter aircraft. This allows the Raptors to provide situational awareness to B-2 pilots while also being nearly invisible to enemy radar.
"The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable," Adcock said. "Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility."
In addition to aerial refueling with KC-135 Stratotankers of the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, a B-2 on Sept. 14 conducted a hot-pit refueling. The process involves landing and continuing to run the aircraft's engines while it is refueled, which allows pilots to immediately take off after refueling.
"Hot-pit refueling allows us to maximize time in the air verses on the ground," Adcock said in a press release last month. "It saves turnaround time. Practicing this technique helps us ensure our effectiveness as a force and keeps us ready, capable and lethal."
Although the B-2 continues to operate from Missouri for the most part, officials say the ability to deploy to forward locations and overcome obstacles to operations is key to maintaining -- and displaying -- the global strike capability of the aircraft.
"The B-2 Spirits' first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations for Headquarters Pacific Air Forces.