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77th Bomb Squadron

The 77th Bomb Squadron "War Eagles" at Ellsworth AFB is a B-1 bomber squadron. Its mission is to maintain the highest level of combat readiness and to be able to deploy anywhere in the world on moment's notice. The unit was tasked to fly the B-1s in NATO's Operation Allied Force. The first squadron to get the B-1B Lancer reactivated with one B-1B after being closed March 31, 1995. By June 1998, the squadron had six B-1Bs and 12 by 01 April 2000. When the squadron was inactivated, its fleet of 12 B-1Bs were placed into "reconstitution reserve" as a cost-cutting measure to free up funds for B-1B conventional weapons upgrades, including precision-guided munitions. The aircraft in reserve status were rotated into the 37th and 34th Bomb squadrons to keep the fleet maintained and mission ready. The Defense Authorization Bill of 1996 included $426.4 million for improvements to the B-1B bombers -- allowing the reserve B1-Bs to return to active-duty. The first upgrade was completed Oct. 1. 1996, which enables the bomber to strike targets with five new types of conventional weapons. When the upgrades are done, the B-1B will carry 24 precision-guided munitions.

On Jun. 15, 1941, at Fort Douglas, Utah, the 77th Bombardment Squadron Activated.1st Lt. Elbert Meals became the squadrons first commander at Fort Douglas, where the unit initiallytrained in B-18 Bolos, but soon converted to the Army's "hot" new B-26. Just over three weeks afterthe Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, the Squadron was on its way to Elmendorf Field, Alaska and its first action.

During 1942, the 77th Bombardment Squadron joined a fighter unit and two heavybomber outfits to become part of the famed 28th Composite group under the 11th Air force.In December 1942, the 77th received B-25 Mitchells. It was with the B-25s that the 77th launched most of their attacks against Japanese forces in the Aleutian Islands and later, 1944 and 1945 the Kurin Island. The squadron left Attu Island, Alaska, Oct. 19, 1945, arriving at Fort Lawton, Washington, Nov. 5, 1945, where it was inactivated, ending its World War II service.

B-52 Stratofortress

In late 1956, SAC formulated plans to convert the 28th Bombardment Wing and its component bomber units, including the 77th Bombardment Squadron, from B-36s to the new B-52. The wing first B-52 arrived June 14,1957, and was immediately assigned to the 77th, kicking off a relationship that would last 29 years. By November the squadron was fully equipped with 15 D-model Stratofortresses. In early 1961, the 77th began to participate in airborne indoctrination sorties, code named "Chrome Dome", to counter Soviet aggression in other parts of the world. The 77th played a major role in this operation which kept a certain percentage of the SAC bomber force aloft at all times, providing a reflex capability in case of enemyattack.

In mid-1960s, as American involvement in Southeast Asia increased, SAC began deploying B-52 units to the area on a rotational basis although the77th 's contingent began in September 1966. From the beginning, the 77th aircraft had thedistinction of participating in the first B-52 missions ever flown over Vietnam. Over the next nine years, the unit was involved in three Southeast Asian Deployments where people flew thousands of combat hours. B-52 G-models began replacing the older D-models in early 1971.

Six years later, the 77th replaced its Gs with still more advanced H-models. In 1982 the 77th shared in the wing newest mission of assuming the roleof Strategic Projection Force. This responsibility specified using the wings B-52s, which were modified to carry both internal and external conventional weapons, for use in global conventional bombing operations. The SPF was SAC's contribution to the interservice organization known as the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force.

As a result of outstanding squadron performance during thisand other national defense duties, the 77th receive the "Best in the 15th Air Force" award, as well as the General John Ryan Outstanding Bombardment Squadron Award for 1982.

B-1B Lancer

In 1982 the unit faced new challenges and at the same time, continued to set new standards. Headquarters Plans were already under way for the 77th to receive the new B-1B. Ellsworth 's last B-52, a 77th plane, left the base in March 1986 After facilities were completed to support the new weapon system, Ellsworth received its first B-1B LancerJan 21, 1987. The 77th was again assigned the first new aircraft.

There were some growing pains for this advanced aircraft, which gave it an undeservedly poor reputation in some circles. The squadron demonstrated how capable their weapon system was. The Air Force kept the 77th B-1B poised on alert to meet national defense needs. By August 1991, response to the decreasing Soviet threat in Eastern Europe and the imminent dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, President George Bush ordered all the squadrons B-1Bs taken off alert.

The 77th immediately began to focus on a transition, which later came as a mandatefrom the Air Combat Command to make its B-1Bs full-time conventional weaponscarriers. Throughout the 1993 and 1994 period, the 77th was involved in local exercisesand headquarters directed missions. The 77th cooperated with the U.S. Navy, Canadianforces and other services at flag events and the Gunsmoke gunnery meet. It alsopresented its B-1Bs in goodwill appearances at various air shows. But, the highlight of 1993 was the 77th and 37th Bomb Squadron's close collaboration to complete "Global Enterprise".

This mission demonstrated the B-1Bs globalcapabilities in a changing international environment. Averaging just under 48 hours overall flight time, the Ellsworth bombers set the record for being the first B-1BSever to circumnavigate the globe. In 1994, the 77th sharedin a wing mission that was the most comprehensive taskingever levied on the B-1B to date. Congress mandated thatthe bombers mission capability be thoroughly scrutinized.

This large-scale operational capability assessment came to be know locally as"Dakota Challenge". The test began June 1, 1994, and ran through early December. Testground rules required the Air Force to provide the 77th and 37th Bomb Squadrons withall the manpower, funding and supply support originally intended for the system. Thegoal was to see if the B-1B could sustain a mission capability of 75 percent or betterover the long haul. Over the next several months, mission capability rates lifted. First tothe established baseline, then beyond.

At the end of the test, the 77th squadron deployed to Roswell Industrial AirCenter, N.M., to operate in a bare-base environment and conduct missions as in war. Bythe end of the November 1994 and the conclusion of "Dakota Challenge," the missioncapable rate for the entire six months was a sustained rate of almost 85 percent. In earlyDecember 1994 the Air Force announced the 77th BS would inactivate. This publicrelease marked the beginning of a phase of the units service to the Air Force, as planswere already underway to upgrade B-1B precision conventional munitions capability.

In these learn fiscal times, however, funds for research, development, and production for improved weapons weren't available without a significant sacrifice from other areas. The77th inactivation March 31, 1995 met such a need. Even within weeks of closure, the squadron continued to carry its share of the wings workload by hosting "Dakota Thunder 95", a composite force training exercise with Air National Guard and Canadian Fighter units. On March 11, 1995 the 77th flew its last "Global Power" mission, over 17 hours induration, across the Pacific.

The squadron launched its farewell "Bone" sortie March 29, 1995 when a 77th aircrew took the squadrons "flagship" aircraft #85-0077 "Pride of the South Dakota," tothe air. As the mighty thunder of its afterburners faded away and the dark jet with the77th's familiar blue tail flash disappeared into the western sky, an era ended. Its inactivation was to save money and help pay for the B-1B weapon upgrades. There were always plans to reactivate the Squadron. This became possible in July 1996,when the Defense Authorization Bill approved by the U.S. Senate included $426.4million in improvements for the nations fleet of B-1Bs. A new Era began in April 1, 1997, with the 77th 's reactivation.

In May 1997 Air Force officials announced changes in force structures affecting the location of people, aircraft and organizations throughout the United States. These changes were the result of revisions in the mission, adjustments for efficiency and to meet congressional directives. At Ellsworth AFB, S.D., the 77th Bomb Squadron was slated to receive four B-lB aircraft, continuing the buy-back from attrition reserve resulting in an increase of 369 military authorizations. The action was projected to take place in fiscal 1998.

The 28th Bomb Wing participated in its first combined global power mission since the 77th Bomb Squadron was reactivated in April. Three B-1Bs, two from the 37th BS and one from the 77th BS, completed a long-duration flight May 27 and 28 to an area off the coast of Spain, where they dropped six Mark-62 Quick Strike underwater mines. This was the first opportunity for the 77th to participate in a wing event since it was reactivated. Although aerial mine drops are a new mission for the B-1B, this was a follow-up to MineEx, a joint exercise with the Navy that was completed in April. Once again the Navy mine building team, Mobile Mine Assembly Unit, was here to assist in the building and loading of the mines.

The 77th Bomb Squadron's new Block D upgraded B-1B flew the first of seven test sorties on 24 November 1998. The crew flew to the Utah Test and Training Range and dropped four inert BDU-56 2,000-pound bombs with live Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits -- two at 25,000 feet and two at 12,000 feet -- for the first part of the training run. The second phase of the mission was flown over the Western Test Range, Nellis AFB, Nev., where the B-1B's electronic counter measures were tested, said Troutman. The crew evaluated the aircraft's offensive and defensive modified weapons systems for reliability, effectiveness and accuracy.

B-1B Lancers assigned to the 77th Bomb Squadron, Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and is deployed to Royal Air Force Fairford, England, as part of the 2nd Air Expeditionary Group in support of NATO Operation Allied Force in early 1999. The B-1s arrived 01 April 1999 from Ellsworth AFB. The 2nd Air Expeditionary Group had almost 800 airmen from 34 bases supporting more than a dozen B-52H and B-1B bombers, as well as the KC-135R tankers.

When the 77th Bomb Squadron at Ellsworth needed additional crew members who were trained in the upgraded B-1, the Detachment 2, 53rd Test and Evaluation Group, at Ellsworth sent four of its 12 crewmembers to join them. The detachment, a subordinate unit of the 53d Wing, has 15 people who are currently performing critical additional tasks while carrying on the unit's primary role as the Air Force's operational B-1B test unit. Detachment aircrews also ferried additional B-1s to Royal Air Force Fairford, England, where the bombers were forward deployed to fly the NATO strike missions.




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