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Air Force looking into salvaging parts of B-1B bomber that crashed off Diego Garcia
By Wayne Specht, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Sunday, February 3, 2002

The Air Force is looking into salvaging portions of a B-1B bomber that crashed in the
Indian Ocean in December.



The four-engine $280 million bomber was engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom
operations against Afghanistan when the crash occurred about 60 miles north of Diego
Garcia. Pentagon officials said the crash was not related to hostile fire.



All four crewmembers safely ejected.



An Air Force spokeswoman said a feasibility study will determine if some of the
wreckage can be lifted off the ocean floor. The 146-foot-long bomber, which may not be in
one piece, weighs 190,000 pounds empty.



"We want to determine the salvageability of the aircraft so [the] actual cause of
the accident can be investigated," said 1st Lt. Michelle Weiss, spokeswoman for Air
Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va.



The Air Force convened a safety investigation board to examine facts surrounding the
mishap. Col. Jack A. Wylie, inspector general for the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base,
Texas, will preside over the board.



A separate accident investigation board, which determines the precise cause of the
crash, is being headed by Col. Edward P. Schoeck, 509th Bomb Wing vice commander, at
Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.



The B-1B Lancer was assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D.,
and was deployed to Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island.



Two of the B-1B's crewmembers are based at Ellsworth, and two are based at
Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho.



Capt. William Steele, pilot of the ill-fated Lancer, told reporters the crew ejected as
a result of "multiple malfunctions" that made the aircraft uncontrollable.



The U.S. Navy and the South Korean navy will assist in the Air Force feasibility study.



"The Republic of Korea Navy offered their military assets in support of Operation
Enduring Freedom, [and] provided the stationary platform at the crash site," Lt. Col.
Douglas Lefforge, a spokesman for the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed at a secret
location, said in an e-mail response.



Named Operation Ocean Star, the South Korean navy dispatched a landing ship. The bomber
is believed to be in relatively shallow water.



"Our duty of the mission is to provide the space for a control center, messing,
fuel and power supply to the Navy's search vessel," said Lt. Cmdr. Han Bu-Sik,
South Korean navy public affairs officer.



A U.S. Navy mine hunter and explosive ordnance disposal craft called a SWATH [small
waterplane area twin hull] was flown Jan. 15 aboard a C-5A Galaxy cargo transport from
Travis Air Force Base, Calif., to accomplish the survey and mapping at the crash site.



A group of 13 Navy specialists from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit SEVEN, San
Diego, operates the SWATH, specially designed to offset ocean swells.



The team consists of EOD, craft operators, mobile communications, and two
"skippers," skilled in underwater explosive ordnance disposal.



"The flight here from San Diego is the first time the SWATH has ever flown aboard
the C-5," said Navy Lt. Rick Fratus, EODMU-7 officer in charge. "It was designed
to fit inside a C-5, and has only been tested once to see if it would [fit], but [the
SWATH] has never flown anywhere before now."



The SWATH uses side-scan sonar and is towed behind a ship. It sends images to a
television monitor aboard the craft. When an item is located that resembles the size and
shape of the bomber, a remote operated vehicle, or "rover," can be lowered to
the ocean floor to capture video of the item.



"We'll be monitoring the search operations on board the 'mother
ship' at the site," Wylie said.



"Only after this initial operation a decision will be made to recover any parts
needed for the safety board," Lefforge said.



Wylie said the team expects to complete the survey and mapping in about two weeks. He
then will recommend the next action.



The B-1B was the first U.S. airplane lost in the war in Afghanistan, and the first B-1B
to crash on a combat mission since the supersonic long-range bomber became operational in
1986.



Air Force B-1Bs and B-52s used Diego Garcia as a staging location for daily bombing
runs over Afghanistan as they pounded al-Qaida mountain hideouts in the Tora Bora region.




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