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B-1 Part of U.S., UK flyover commemorating 8th AF 80th anniversary

  • Published
  • By 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs Office
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth participated in a long-distance, round-trip flight originating from its home station to the United Kingdom to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Eighth Air Force, Feb. 1.

The Air Force Global Strike Command strategic bombers were joined by Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning aircraft and U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath over the RAF Duxford area during the 22.5 hour mission. Duxford houses Europe’s largest air museum and was once home to an Eighth Air Force P-51 Mustang unit.

“It was a blast, this was the most fun I’ve had on a mission,” said Capt. Paul Mueller, a B-1B pilot assigned to the 34th Bomb Squadron who participated in the historic mission. “It was awesome working with the Royal Air Force to commemorate the Eighth Air Force’s 80th anniversary.”

The mission also provided aviators with opportunities to become familiar interacting with a variety of aircraft in a different theater of operations which helps bolster their capabilities and preparedness.

The modern day Eighth Air Force traces its lineage back to VIII Bomber Command, established on Feb. 1, 1942, at Langley Field, Virginia. That same month, VIII Bomber Command moved to England, first to Daws Hill and later to High Wycombe, where it established its wartime headquarters in the Wycombe Abbey School. On Feb. 22, 1944, the Army reorganized its Air Forces in Europe by renaming Eighth Air Force as the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe – the VIII Bomber Command officially became Eighth Air Force.

“The Eighth Air Force has a long, rich history that dates back to World War II,” said Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara, Eighth Air Force and Joint-Global Strike Operations Center commander. “Not only does this flight signify the longevity and reach of the United States’ bomber force, but it also pays tribute to our closest Ally, the United Kingdom. Eighth Air Force has had a close relationship with the Royal Air Force since its beginning.”

Eighth Air Force earned the name, “The Mighty Eighth,” due to its size and strength during WWII. By mid-1944, the unit had more than 200,000 members. At its peak, the Mighty Eighth could dispatch more than 1,000 four-engine bombers and varieties of fighter aircraft on a single mission if need be.

 “For 80 years, bomber operations have remained a vital component to U.S. strategic forces,” said Gebara.

In addition to celebrating the anniversary of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Ellsworth is also celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. On Jan. 2, 1942, the U.S. War Department established Rapid City Army Air Base in South Dakota to train B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber units to fight the axis forces in Europe.

“Our participation in this mission is a testament to the rich Raider heritage we have at Ellsworth,” said Col. Joseph Sheffield, 28th Bomb Wing commander. “Executing a long-range integration mission with our allies for the anniversary of the Eighth Air Force highlights our relationship and demonstrates our ability to provide combat airpower -- anytime, anywhere. All that we do today, and will do tomorrow, comes from the remarkable foundation set by the Mighty Eighth.”

Today, Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions, both deployed and those operating from home station, can be seen in every area across the globe. BTFs, like the one at RAF Duxford, demonstrate the U.S. Air Force’s unique ability to rapidly deploy and integrate with NATO Allies and coalition partners.

(Information contained in the article obtained from a news release from Eighth Air Force Public Affairs.)