By Airman 1st Class Sophia Robello, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 08, 2021
A B-1B Lancer flies to conduct night training operations at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, October 20, 2020. The training was conducted with Joint Terminal Attack Controller Airmen from the 66th Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada, and C-130J Super Hercules from the 29th WPS, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, to test their joint operational capabilities. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
A B-1B Lancer taxi’s on the runway at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, June 4, 2020. The Nevada Test and Training Range has several flying ranges that include a simulated Integrated Air Defense System that are used during the weapons system school. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
The 77th Weapons Squadron has a long and rich history of training weapons officers dating back to World War II with the activation of the 77th Bombardment Squadron in November of 1940.
It was one of the first Air Corps units to be assigned to Elmendorf Field, Alaska. When the Japanese invaded the Aleutian Islands in June of 1942, the unit was relocated to Fort Glenn Army Air Field, Alaska, and remained there until the end of World War II in 1945. Now, the 77th WPS provides education and training to weapons officers at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
“These weapons officers are tactical experts at combat employment of the B-1,” says Lt. Col. Charles Armstrong, 77th WPS commander. “They are highly-skilled aviators who can effectively integrate the B-1 alongside other aircraft and provide combat capabilities in the most challenging environments faced within the joint community.”
The 77th WPS is one of many weapons squadrons, each of which specializes in a particular aircraft or mission area. While the 77th WPS teaches B-1B Lancer aircrew members, there are students from fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, intel, cyber, rescue, and mobility communities going through similar training in other weapons squadrons. Instructor pilots or weapons squadron officers enter the course to focus on tactical leadership and graduate ready to be expert tactical advisors for various leadership positions.
“The B-1 syllabus is divided into phases, each of which builds upon the last,” said Armstrong. “The first phase is Defensive Employment, which focuses on enemy threat systems and maintaining survivability in combat. The Weapons Employment phase takes students through complex planning and employment scenarios involving every weapon the B-1 carries.”
The 77th WPS training focuses on multiple facets of aircrew members effectively implementing a B-1 aircraft while working alongside other airframes.
The Flexible Targeting phase teaches how to best use the B-1 in missions such as on-call interdiction, close air support, and strike coordination and armed reconnaissance (SCAR). These missions involve real-time coordination with other aircraft as well as ground forces.
Weapons School Integration takes place at Nellis AFB, Nevada. During the integration, all of the weapons squadrons plan, fly, and debrief together as they tackle a multitude of complex training scenarios. The students learn how to integrate air, space, and cyber capabilities in real time to solve extremely difficult tactical problems.
“Their training and expertise allows them to teach younger aviators how to employ the B-1 most effectively, how to plan and coordinate complex missions, and how to prepare for operations overseas,” said Armstrong. “The 77th WPS provides the B-1 community with the next generation of tactical expertise.”
Throughout world challenges, the 77th WPS continues to make innovations and major changes to the way they prepare future tactical experts. Over the last two years, the 77th WPS helped plan the first combat usage of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile.
The constant challenges of training during COVID-19 proved to be a new innovation for the 77th WPS using creative measures to continue training despite the global pandemic. With video tele-conferencing through different platforms to establish long distance mission planning, as well as completing sorties from Dyess AFB to support weapons school integration, students continued to maximize their education with no delays.
"Conducting briefs via video teleconference was not ideal, but it helped us continue our mission of producing the next generation of B-1 weapons officers,” said Lt. Col. John Ethredge, 77th WPS director of operations. “The inherent limitations of remote connectivity meant fewer chances for questions and side discussions, but we were glad that the briefings could still go forward in some fashion."
With the constant support from the dedicated members of the 77th WPS, the mission continues and weapons officers are prepared for the future of the Air Force.
"The training has been some of the best I've seen,” said Capt. Tim Bjorgan, 34th Bomb Squadron weapons system officer from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. “The opportunity to plan alongside students from other aircraft is a huge benefit. It's one thing to read their tactics manuals, but it's another to talk to them in depth about how their sensors work, how they employ their weapons, and why they wrote their tactics manuals the way they did."