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Bad to the Bone: drug interdiction from 30,000 feet

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jason McCasland
  • 307th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Total Force Integrated Airmen from the 489th Bomb Group and 7th Bomb Wing used the B-1 Lancer to track illicit drug traffickers, or “smugglers,” from South America to the U.S. out of Boca Chica Naval Air Station, Key West, Fla. March 20 - 24.

The B-1 or “Bone” assisted the Joint Interagency Task Force South in countering smugglers in the East Pacific and West Caribbean Ocean. Its role is only one part of the JIATF-South’s integration of every branch of the U.S military, U.S. federal intelligence agencies, law enforcement and 15 partner nations working side-by-side to detect and monitor trafficking in the air and maritime in Latin America.

The Bone’s capabilities of a synthetic aperture radar capable of tracking, targeting and engaging moving vehicles which makes it perfect for finding smugglers using “go-fast” boats across the ocean.

“The 345th and 9th bomb squadrons are working with JIATF-South to identify boats that are moving drugs from Central America up through Mexico,” said Lt. Col Michael McClanahan, 345th Bomb Squadron commander. “While you tend to think of the B-1 as only doing bombing missions, we're not employing that tactic this week. But, we are using the varying sensors on the B-1, such as the targeting pod and the ground moving target radar capability to identify boats on the water then relaying that information to the to the Coast Guard or some of the other players operating during this mission.”

The integration combines the experience of the 489th Bomb Group and 7th Bomb Wing which provides a better working environment for the mission.

“We have all of these different working parts; each bringing their own strengths to the mission,” Col. Justin Boldenow, 7th Operations Group commander. “At Dyess we have a combination of both active duty and reserve airmen from the 489th Bomb Group and the 7th Bomb Wing. That total force integration helps us to communicate not only within our own units across the Air Force, it gives us the tools to integrate with other agencies to accomplish a mission such as this.”

In total, the combined unit dedicated more than 10 sorties of coverage to this operation. Those flights searched more than 3.2 million square miles of ocean and assisted in confiscating more than 4,500 kilos of drugs.

“This type of mission means a lot more to us than a typical training mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Brian Luke, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “I don't like drugs and I want to keep them out of my community. We are not here to have fun like other people visiting Key West, we’re here to do a mission and everyone we have brought with us are the right people for this mission. Everyone from the lowest airmen to the highest rank have been dedicated to what we are doing here with the JIATF-South.”

Missions such as these offer training opportunities with an impact seen at home in local communities. Even though the B-1 was designed for combat support, it has been used in a multitude of flying missions daily outside of combat operations.