The U.S. Air Force’s switch from bomber forward basing to a Bomber Task Force (BTF) model is freeing up time for service personnel at Andersen AFB, Guam to focus on planning to meet threats in the Indo-Pacific region–the most prominent among them, China.
Last April, the Air Force said that it was ending its 16-year continuous bomber presence (CBP) at Andersen to move to a BTF model of deploying bombers rapidly, as needed, from the continental United States.
“One of the things I’m really excited about is the fact that we don’t own iron,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeremy “Kid” Sloane, the commander of the 36th Wing at Andersen, said Jan. 26 during an Air Force Association Air and Space Warfighters in Action forum.
“When dissecting the problem set out here and how we’re going to use bombers and bomber presence–our Bomber Task Force–to achieve our objectives within the region, that’s a little bit harder to do when your really good minds, your really good thinkers, are spending a significant chunk of their time staying current in the aircraft, or worried about the flying hour program, the maintenance, the scheduling, the availability—all those things that come with running and supporting and flying iron and keeping all of your pilots up to speed,” Sloane said.
“Although our [36th] OG [Operations Group] and our leadership team still get to do that periodically, they get to do it across a bunch of different platforms and see how better to integrate those platforms, and what we can do, and what we should be doing as they look at the way that the theater is shaping out and the way the threats are messaging us and look at innovative ways and places we could better message and better strategically project power,” he said. “I think the concepts we develop out here at the forward edge are going to be important to the planners back at PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] and then headquarters/Air Force and STRATCOM [U.S. Strategic Command].”
U.S. Central Command, Air Force Global Strike Command, United States Air Forces in Europe and Pacific Air Forces have been discussing ways to improve the BTF model to ensure the rapid deployment of combat capability.
The intent to integrate a variety of platforms in the strategic planning at Andersen comes as the Air Force faces the task of winning over the Biden administration on its bomber roadmap. While the 2018 roadmap included 175 bombers–100 Northrop Grumman [NOC] B-21s and 75 of the venerable Boeing [BA] B-52, there has been some Air Force thought that the number should be “north of 220,” which could mean a force of 145 or more B-21s (Defense Daily, Sept. 14, 2020).
While the range of Air Force platforms in eliminating the “tyranny of distance” in the Indo-Pacific region may shield the service from defense cuts, the Center for Defense Information’s Project on Government Oversight has said that the Biden administration may consider cuts to the expensive B-21 and Northrop Grumman Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) programs.