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Barksdale joins Bright Star 2005

by Stephanie Bemrose
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

10/7/2005 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFPN) -- Airmen here recently engaged in a unique international exercise -- Bright Star 2005.

The Bright Star exercise takes place every two years in Egypt and includes coalition forces from the United States, Egypt and 12 other countries.

Airmen faced several challenges during the exercise which ran Sept. 10 to Oct. 3, which included language barriers and different amounts of experience working with a bomber.

Airmen in two B-52 Stratofortresses flew three 12-hour missions from Royal Air Force Fairford, England, to Cairo, Egypt, and back employing inert 500-pound bombs, said Capt. Dave Aragon, of the Bright Star 2005 mission planning cell.

Capt. Andrea Jensen, a B-52 representative at the Combined Flight Operations Center in Cairo, explained the differences in each country’s mindset.

“The Egyptians are used to flying only to protect their own country, but we (fly) across the world to do our mission,” Captain Jensen said.

A large difference between coalition forces and American forces was the involvement of a bomber arriving from an external location, Captain Jensen said.

“When we work with other U.S. services, they have experience dealing with us and they know what we require and how the Air Force works,” Captain Jensen said. “They may not know all the details of what the (bomber) requires but they understand the basic requirements and we work out the details. In the Bright Star [2005] exercise, we had to work out the big picture and we were lucky if we even got to sorting out all the details.”

Captain Jensen also explained how a B-52 has special needs for a mission, which the other countries were not used to.

“We needed a place to orbit (before) our attack,” the captain said. “Fighters all have points where they hold, but we can’t hold at a point -- we need a huge chunk of airspace, and that wasn’t intuitive for them because that’s not usually a part of their operations.”

Among the challenges, coalition forces had to work with variable mission flights. When an Egyptian liaison wanted to know details about what time the bomber would arrive and what altitude it would be at, Captain Jensen explained how the B-52 had to fly through several foreign airspaces and still adhere to international flight regulations. This would cause this information to be unpredictable.

The language barrier while working with French and Egyptian mission commanders was a small challenge as well, said Capt. Drew Smith, 20th Bomb Squadron aircraft commander. He said the experience was a unique opportunity.

“The most obvious difference was to see desert instead of swamps when looking down, but beyond that there were also different voices and accents on the radio,” Captain Smith said. “We tried to pick up the local lingo as we went along.”

Despite the challenges, there were some similarities between Bright Star 2005 and other exercises. One similarity with previous exercises was an accelerated timeline to plan and brief the missions, said Captain Aragon said.

“This acceleration required those involved to rely on their years of experience and ‘airmanship’ to execute the mission successfully,” he said.

While some of the same old techniques were used, Captain Smith said he also experienced new combat techniques.

“We don’t normally do these things except during war, so it was a fantastic chance to see different techniques and different airframes that work well in concert,” He said. “Also, we saw what they have developed … and what they were trying to build on -- that shared operational framework.”

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